World’s First Malaria Vaccine is here and undergoing trials in Africaadmin 30th March 2020 0 COMMENTS
The world first malaria vaccine is here. It was developed by a team of Belgian scientists in GlaxoSmithKline. It is known as RTS,S and goes by the trade name Mosquirix. In clinical trials, the vaccine has been shown to reduce a child’s chance of contracting malaria by 40%. This means that it is only partially successfully as a protection against malaria in 4 out of 10 cases. Furthermore, although the vaccine lessens the severity of malaria cases when they occur, its efficacy wears off four years after the final dose. The vaccine is spread is four doses and taken over two years starting when a child is 6 months old.
The vaccine which took 30 years to develop and cost over one billion dollars to date is currently undergoing a four year pilot in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in order to establish its feasibility and safety. This pilot is coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and once successful, will be rolled out in full.
The roll out has faced many challenges. One is from the anti-vaccination campaigners who claim that parents are not given the full picture about potential risks of the vaccine to children. Potential risks and side effects include meningitis and cerebral malaria. Vaccine hesitancy is another challenge. Vaccine hesitancy is a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or to have one’s children vaccinated against contagious diseases. It is identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019. An additional challenge is the misinformation on social media whereby negative information on the use of the vaccine is widely spread making parents refuse to give their children. Other concerns involve the amount of money spent on its development. Some practitioners and policy makers claim that the funds could have been used for other malaria prevention methods.
These are not the only concerns. Many experts have doubts with a few going as far as stating that the vaccine kills girls. After analyzing the data from the biggest trial in Malawi, a Danish anthropologist and vaccine researcher Peter Aaby of the Bandim Health Project in Guinea-Bissau discovered that among girls, overall mortality was almost doubled. However, WHO does not agree with this. The organisation says that children involved in the trial received better care and that their mortality rate was lower by 70% compared to children near the study sites who were not enrolled in the trial.
To address these doubts, the WHO agreed to go on with the roll out with national governments involved in selecting sites for administration for three years. They will compare rates of malaria, meningitis, and other diseases as well as mortality rates in vaccinated and control areas to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. This has been welcome by some African experts stating that “Africa can no longer wait for the vaccine” since it has proven to be effective in about 40% of its cases.
As for the developers of the vaccine, GSK will keep offering it at production cost plus 5% financial return depending on sufficient demand and support from GAVI. GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance is a public–private global health partnership committed to increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.
Malaria is a deadly disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Children aged under 5 years are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria. Africa has been disproportionately affected by malaria. In 2018, the region was home to 93% of malaria cases and 94% of malaria deaths.