It is thought “ten times” more people could die from the disease than from COVID-19.
The Oxford team behind a successful COVID-19 vaccine candidate are close to entering the final stage of human trials in their jab against malaria.
Speaking to The Times, The Jenner Institute director Adrian Hill said the much-anticipated injection will be tested on around 4,800 children in African countries next year, after earlier trials showed promising results.
Professor Hill speculated that the vaccine could be ready by 2024, assuming final human trials are carried out successfully.
Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, is responsible for the deaths of more than 400,000 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting it.
In areas with high malaria transmission, young children and pregnant women are most vulnerable to catching the infection and – in worst case scenarios – dying from it.
The charity UNICEF describes the disease as “the largest killer of children” – with one child dying from it every 30 seconds – about 3,000 every day.
90 per cent of cases are reported to be in sub-Saharan Africa – with children under five accounting for 65% of all deaths.
The treatable disease, which has so far been managed with effective drugs, may soon be able to prevent up to half a million annual malaria-related death, according to Professor Hill.
He told the newspaper: “Malaria is a public health emergency.
“A lot more people will die in Africa this year from malaria than will die from COVID-19. I don’t mean twice as many – probably ten times.
“(The vaccine) is going to be available in very large amounts, it works pretty well. And it’s going to be very low priced.”
The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is currently awaiting regulatory approval for use in the UK.
This jab works like a traditional inoculation where a spike protein of the virus is injected which the immune system builds up a response to if the real virus enters the body.
The Oxford trial found with two doses its vaccine was 62% effective, but when people were given a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later its efficacy rose to 90%.