The WHO-coordinated pilot program launches in collaboration with the ministries of health of the three participating nations, and other partners, including nonprofit organization PATH and GSK, the vaccine developer and manufacturer, which is donating up to 10 million vaccine doses for this pilot. O'Brien said that about 360,000 children will be vaccinated each year across the three countries. The other two countries are Ghana and Kenya, where this vaccine will be introduced in the coming weeks.
"The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children's lives".
Mosquirix has been developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
He acknowledged the vaccine was flawed but said the world could not afford to wait for a better option.
"This is the first time that a malaria vaccine has been recommended for phased introduction in several settings in Africa by WHO's top advisory committees for malaria and immunisation".
"Nobody is suggesting that this is a magic bullet", said Dr David Schellenberg, scientific adviser to the WHO's Global Malaria Programme, in an interview with the BBC.
"Malaria can kill a child in less than 24 hours", said researcher Tisungane Mvalo, a paediatrician at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Project-Malawi in Lilongwe.
The "RTS, S" vaccine was 30 years in the making.
Malaria, according to the World Health Organisation, remains one of the world's leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. "It may not sound like much but we are talking about 40% reduction in severe malaria which unfortunately still has high mortality even when you have access to good treatment". Craig said that immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could save thousands from falling ill or dying.
Each child requires four doses of the vaccine to ensure robust protection; it also calls for a strict schedule, and should not coincide with other medications.
"We look forward to the start of vaccination in Ghana, and then Kenya later this year".
While celebrating the launch of the vaccine, the World Health Organization also reminds that it's a complementary malaria control tool added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention, including the routine use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and the timely use of malaria testing and treatment.
Dr O'Brien said that malaria is "a really hard disease to develop a vaccine against".
"Lots of vaccines that we give to babies and children require multiple doses, and like those routine childhood vaccines, this one can be delivered where health systems are relatively strong. This malaria vaccine adds a tool to our toolkit", he told dpa.
It would also be the world's first vaccine, to provide protection against parasite.