African Countries Chosen to Test 1st Malaria Vaccine

Ellen Mills
April 26, 2017

The vaccine is called RTS, S and it is marketed under the trade name trade name Mosquirix by GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines (a subdivision of the global pharmaceutical company).

The pilot will involve over 750,000 children aged between five and 17 months.

The RTS, S vaccine trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquito bites, the BBC quoted the World Health Organization as saying.

It will also assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses needed, and explore the vaccine's potential role in reducing the number of children killed by the disease.

Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide.

Dr. Thomas Churcher of Imperial College London uses mathematical modeling to highlight the best way of killing of blocking the main vector that transmits malaria - the mosquito.

Malaria remains one of the world's most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million.

Global efforts between 2000 and 2015, however, have led to a 62 percent reduction in malaria deaths.

Africa is by far the continent most affected by malaria, accounting for 92 percent of the 429,000 people killed worldwide in 2015, according to World Health Organization figures.

Current anti-malaria programs use a number of techniques to curb the spread of the disease, including spraying with insecticides indoors, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and antimalarial drugs.

RTS, S is an injectable vaccine administered in four doses.

It previously passed all of its clinical trials, including a phase three clinical trial between 2009 and 2014, and got approval for the large-scale pilot program in 2015.

Back in 2015-despite an EMA green light for the shot based on phase 3 data involving more than 15,000 children in African countries-the WHO chose to evaluate the vaccine's real-world performance before recommending it for a full rollout.

To develop the vaccine, GSK partnered with the non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and received part of the funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"However, some States such as Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh continue to be a cause for concern as just these states account for over 60 per cent of all the malaria cases in India", Prasad said, after conducting a pan-India survey last week.

The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programs, wide use of bed-nets, and well-functioning immunization programs.

These pilot projects will provide the evidence we need from real-life settings to make informed decisions on whether to deploy the vaccine on a wide scale.

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