The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the widespread use of a malaria vaccine among children in Africa and other regions of high malaria transmission, a breakthrough in the long fight towards the deadly disease.
Malaria is a parasite caused disease that has been around for thousands of years and is transmitted initially via mosquito bites. It kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 260,000 children below the age of 5 die every year from malaria.
The road to an effective malaria vaccine has been long, with many vaccines showing only modest efficacy. The vaccine WHO has recommended called RTS, S or Mosquirix, is more than 30 years in making and works to prime the immune system against plasmodium falciparum (deadliest malaria parasite and the most common one in Africa.
It is the first vaccine to complete large-scale clinical trials, and show that it could significantly reduce malaria, which include life-threatening malaria, in young children in Africa, consistent with WHO. It is the first vaccine developed against any disease caused-by a parasite, consistent with The New York Times.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for the science, child health & malaria control,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said in a statement on Wednesday (oct. 6). “Using this vaccine on-top-of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives every year.”
In large-scale clinical trials, vaccine, developed by UK healthcare company, GlaxoSmithKline, prevented around four in ten cases of malaria, a 39% efficacy across a period of 4 years, in children who received 4 doses, consistent with WHO. The vaccine prevented three in ten cases, a 29% efficacy of severe malaria.
Following clinical trial results, WHO recommended that vaccine be piloted in selected regions across Ghana, Kenya & Malawi.
Since 2019, more than 800,000 children in the countries were vaccinated through these programs, consistent with WHO. The vaccine which is given in 4 doses to children starting at five months of age, was shown to be secure and led to a 30% reduction in deadly severe malaria cases, even if distributed in regions that widely used insecticide treated nets and where there is good access to treatment.
Presently, malaria in high-transmission regions is controlled mainly by spraying houses with insecticide once or twice a year, or sleeping under insecticide treated with mosquito nets.
Another study that was published in September in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that when children had been given an anti-malarial drug in conjunction with the vaccine, the combination reduced hospitalization with severe malaria by 70.5% and death by 72.9% as compared with simply the anti-malarial drug. One modeling study, published in November 2020 in journal PLOS Medicine, found that vaccine could prevent 5.3 million cases & 24,000 deaths among children five years and younger every year.
If the global vaccine alliance, Gavi determines that malaria vaccine is a good investment, organization will purchase the vaccines for countries that need it, consistent with the Times.
Other malaria vaccine candidates have been currently being tested. One of these vaccines, developed by researchers at University of Oxford, showed 77 percent efficacy in early clinical trials (the most effective malaria vaccine to pass the WHO’s goal of attaining at least 75 percent efficacy by 2030). Larger-scale trials are now starting on that vaccine, consistent with The Guardian.
A 2nd malaria vaccine could be “highly beneficial” to malaria control, especially in helping to meet the anticipated high-demand, consistent with WHO.