World’s first malaria vaccine will be available next year
A malaria vaccine may be available as soon as 2018.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the treatment would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. Infected children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will trial the vaccine next year.
Malaria affects more than 200 million new people annually. Around half a million people die every year from the disease, most of which are children. The vaccine will be tested on at least 120,000 children aged five to 17 months old. In this age group, the treatment is thought to prevent nearly four in 10 malaria cases.
It may also reduce the most severe cases by a third, as well as lowering the number of children needing hospital treatment or blood transfusions.
Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were chosen for the trial because all a high number of malaria cases, despite their strong prevention and vaccination programmes. The vaccine’s dosing requirements is once a month for three months, followed by a fourth dose 18 months later, The Mirror reported.
Yet, despite the overall optimism for the treatment, it is unclear whether less developed countries will be capable of delivering the four vaccine doses needed per child.
The fourth dose is particularly critical.
The vaccine, known as RTS,S, makes the immune system attack the malaria parasite.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said: “The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot programme will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine.
“Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”
Sub-Saharan Africa made up approximately 90 per cent of the world’s cases in 2015. Bed nets and insecticides are the main prevention methods.
According to the WHO, malaria deaths fell by 62 per cent between 2000 and 2015.
Yet, such estimates are based on inaccurate modelling and data for 31 African countries, and therefore the true figure is unknown.
The WHO hopes to wipe out malaria by 2040 despite increasing resistance problems to drugs and insecticides.
GlaxoSmithKline is the pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine. The $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.