Malaria vaccine a beacon of hope in the fight against a range of infectious diseases
Just as health workers have been guiding lights in these difficult times, so has the transformative potential of science.
WHO’s recommendation of the widespread use of a malaria vaccine for children at risk, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, marked a milestone moment for child health and malaria control.
The recommendation was based on results from an ongoing pilot programme of the RTS,S vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800 000 children since 2019.
The vaccine has reinvigorated the fight against malaria, which claimed the lives of over 600 000 people in Africa in 2020. Children under the age of 5 represented 80% of these deaths.
Even before the pandemic struck, there were signs that after years of phenomenal gains, progress was stalling.
Other major achievements relating to immunization include the introduction of a licensed Ebola vaccine and launch of a landmark new global plan to tackle meningitis.
Meanwhile, we released new evidence that more countries are following WHO’s advice on the steps to take when HIV drug resistance reaches critical thresholds. This is an important step forward in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance, about which WHO continues to raise the alarm, calling for action on innovation and within the food system.
WHO signals alarm about dementia challenge
Individuals can do a lot themselves to stay healthy but they can’t do it all on their own.
WHO released its first report on the global status of the public health response to dementia, showing that only a quarter of countries worldwide have a national policy, strategy or plan for supporting people with dementia and their families.
These gaps are increasingly concerning, as the number of people living with dementia is growing.
WHO estimates that more than 55 million people (8.1% of women and 5.4% of men over 65 years) are living with dementia.
As life expectancy increases worldwide, this number is estimated to rise to 78 million by 2030 and to 139 million by 2050.
To drive change, the report highlights the urgent need to strengthen support at national level, for both people with dementia and those who care for them. Many countries lack earmarked funding in national health budgets, leaving significant gaps in treatment and care, and do not comprehensively involve people with dementia and their carers and families in developing policies. These are among the areas for change.
WHO is also developing a Dementia Research Blueprint, to structure research efforts and stimulate new initiatives, helping to overcome challenges related to past unsuccessful clinical trials for treatments and the high costs of research and development.
Source: World Health Organization
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