Pedro Alonso, Director of WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, said in London that the go-ahead came after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria approved the money.

He said Global Fund has assured full funding for the first phase of the programme and immunisation campaigns will start in 2018.

"Securing funding and being able to trial the vaccine in Africa pilots would be a milestone in the fight against malaria.

"These pilot projects will provide the evidence we need from real-life settings to make informed decisions on whether to deploy the vaccine on a wide scale," he said.

Alonso said the vaccine, known as RTS,S or Mosquirix is developed by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline.

He said the vaccine is only partially effective and needs to be given in a four-dose schedule, but is the first approved shot against the mosquito-borne disease.

The WHO said last year that while RTS,S was promising, it should be deployed only on a pilot basis before any wide-scale use, given its limited efficacy.

Alonso said earlier this year, the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID announced commitments of up to 27.5 million dollars and 9.6 million dollars, respectively, for the first four years of the programme.

"Malaria infects around 200 million people a year worldwide and killed an estimated 440,000 in 2015.

"The vast majority of malaria deaths are among babies in sub-Saharan Africa," he said.

RTS,S was developed by GSK in partnership with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.