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Biggest science news of 2021: RTS,S becomes world’s first approved malaria vaccine

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October saw the RTS,S malaria vaccine given the go-ahead for use outside trials for the first time – a momentous decision, decades in the making



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15 December 2021

REUTERS/James Keyi/Alamy

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Decades in the making, October saw a malaria vaccine given the go-ahead for use outside trials for the first time, described as a “historic moment” by World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Below, Jeywellan Ochieng receives the vaccine in Kenya on 7 October, the day the announcement was made.

This RTS,S vaccine reduces cases of severe malaria by only 30 per cent, but because the disease causes more than 400,000 deaths a year, it should save many lives.

Several other malaria vaccines are in the works, and some may be more than 70 per cent effective.

2021 in review

This was a year of tackling great challenges, from the covid-19 pandemic to climate change. But 2021 was also rich in scientific discoveries and major advances.

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