World's First Malaria Vaccine Approved in Major Breakthrough Against Deadly Infection

The World Health Organization (WHO), has recommended that children in Africa and in other areas with high malaria transmission use a malaria vaccine. This is a major breakthrough in the long-term fight against this deadly disease.
Malaria, a parasite-caused illness, has been around for thousands and years. It is transmitted mainly by mosquito bites. More than 400,000 people are affected each year in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria kills more than 260,000 children below 5 years old each year.

Live Science reported that the road to a malaria vaccine is long and difficult.

RTS, S or Mosquirix, the WHO-endorsed vaccine, is more than 30 year old and primes the immune system to fight Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite in Africa.

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According to WHO, it is the first vaccine to undergo large-scale clinical trials. It has shown that it can reduce malaria in young children in Africa.

According to The New York Times, it is also the first vaccine against parasite-related diseases.

This is a historic moment. "This is a historic moment. The long-awaited vaccine against malaria for children is a breakthrough in science, child health, and malaria control," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (director-general of WHO), in a statement Wednesday, Oct. 6.

"This vaccine, when used in combination with existing tools to prevent malaria, could save the lives of tens of thousands of children each year."

According to WHO, large-scale clinical trials showed that the vaccine, which was developed by GlaxoSmithKline in the UK, had a 39 percent effectiveness over a four year period. 3 out of 10 cases were protected by the vaccine, which had a 29 percent effectiveness against severe malaria.

The WHO recommended piloting the vaccine in selected areas of Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi following the results from the clinical trials.

According to WHO, these programs have vaccinated more than 800,000.

The vaccine is administered in four doses starting at five months to children. It has been shown to be safe.

The current method of controlling malaria in high-transmission areas includes spraying homes with insecticide twice a year and sleeping under insecticide-treated nets.

A second study was published in September in The New England Journal of Medicine. It found that children who received an anti-malarial drug in combination with the vaccine had a 70.5 percent reduction in severe malaria hospitalizations and a 72.9 percent decrease in death rates.

A modeling study published in November 2020 by the journal PLOS Medicine found that vaccines could prevent 24,000 deaths and 5.3 million cases of illness among children aged 5 and under every year.

According to the Times, if the Gavi global vaccine alliance decides that the malaria vaccine makes a good investment it will buy the vaccines for countries who request them.

Others are being tested as potential malaria vaccines. Live Science reported that a vaccine developed by Oxford researchers showed 77 percent effectiveness in clinical trials. This vaccine is the only one to meet the WHO goal of at least 75 percent efficacy by 2030. According to The Guardian, large-scale trials for that vaccine are currently underway.

According to WHO, a second malaria vaccine would be "highly useful" in malaria control, particularly if it could help meet the high demand.

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Live Science originally published this article. You can read the original article here.