Doctor's decades-long quest for malaria vaccine pays off

Health officials in Europe approved the world's first vaccine for malaria on Friday.

The ancient scourge spread by mosquitoes sickened nearly 200 million people in 2013, killing about 600,000 -- mostly in Africa.

Most of the victims of malaria are children under the age of 5. In fact, the disease claims the life of one child every minute. After almost three decades of research, Dr. Moncef Slaoui and his team at GSK have finally produced an effective vaccine.

"I believe it's enormous," said Slaoui.

The vaccine is only about 30 percent effective, but with malaria so rampant, it could be a game-changer, preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

The disease is caused by a parasite that infects the blood.

"This is the first-ever vaccine against a human parasite," Slaoui said.

Slaoui worked on the vaccine for 27 years, and hearing that it had been approved was an emotional moment for him.

"I cried -- it's very personal," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of children in sub-Saharan Africa will be changed. I feel that for them and for their parents. I can't wait to see this vaccine given to children. I will be there."

The vaccine was tested in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and cost about $600 million to develop. It's now up to the World Health Organization to determine its roll-out date, which could be as early as 2016.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook