A safe and effective malaria vaccine would contribute greatly to the control and prevention of the disease. Although a review of global activity in malaria vaccine development does reflect significant activity, progress has remained slow. This article discusses the current vaccine candidates, with emphasis on those in the clinic, and explains the numerous challenges to making and evaluating malaria vaccines, which have resulted in only a few approaches being adopted and repeatedly evaluated. Against a parasite with more than 5200 genes, the lack of definitive knowledge regarding the nature of protective immunity and absence of reliable surrogates of protection are among the key challenges to a rational evaluation and prioritization of candidate vaccines. Pursuing the current R strategies may not result in the availability of a vaccine with characteristics suitable to impact significantly on disease morbidity in developing countries. Therefore, it is critical that the main challenges to malaria vaccine development be unambiguously identified and collectively addressed.