Large gains in the reduction of malaria mortality in the early 20th century were lost in subsequent decades. Malaria now kills 2-3 million people yearly. Implementation of malaria control technologies such as insecticide-treated bednets and chemotherapy could reduce mortality substantially, but an effective malaria vaccine is also needed. Advances in vaccine technology and immunology are being used to develop malaria subunit vaccines. Novel approaches that might yield effective vaccines for other diseases are being evaluated first in malaria. We describe progress in malaria vaccine development in the past 5 years: reasons for cautious optimism, the type of vaccine that might realistically be expected, and how the process could be hastened. Although exact predictions are not possible, if sufficient funding were mobilised, a deployable, effective malaria vaccine is a realistic medium-term to long-term goal.
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