Plasmodium vivax is geographically the most widely distributed cause of malaria in people, with up to 2.5 billion people at risk and an estimated 80 million to 300 million clinical cases every year--including severe disease and death. Despite this large burden of disease, P vivax is overlooked and left in the shadow of the enormous problem caused by Plasmodium falciparum in sub-Saharan Africa. The technological advances enabling the sequencing of the P vivax genome and a recent call for worldwide malaria eradication have together placed new emphasis on the importance of addressing P vivax as a major public health problem. However, because of this parasite's biology, it is especially difficult to interrupt the transmission of P vivax, and experts agree that the available methods for preventing and treating infections with P vivax are inadequate. It is thus imperative that the development of new methods and strategies become a priority. Advancing the development of such methods needs renewed emphasis on understanding the biology, pathogenesis, and epidemiology of P vivax. This Review critically examines what is known about P vivax, focusing on identifying the crucial gaps that create obstacles to the elimination of this parasite in human populations.