Malaria is a preventable and treatable disease. However, every year malaria makes more than 200 million people sick. Malaria kills more than 600,000 people. Most of these deaths, nearly half a million, occur in young children in Africa. That means every minute, a child dies from malaria.
Despite this dismal news, there are now bright prospects for malaria control, thanks to the development of the world’s first malaria vaccine. WHO called the achievement a historic breakthrough for science.
A pilot program started in 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. WHO reports that more than one million children in the three countries have received the malaria vaccine.
Mary Hamel, Head of WHO’s Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme, said the two-year pilot program demonstrated the vaccine was safe, feasible and reduced the severity of the deadly disease.
“We saw a 30 per cent reduction in deaths in children admitted to hospital with severe, lethal malaria. We also saw a nearly 10% reduction in all child deaths attributable to malaria. If this vaccine is widely disseminated, it is estimated that it could save an additional 40,000 to 80,000 children’s lives every year,” he explained.
WHO reports that the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, is providing more than $155 million to support the expansion of malaria vaccine introduction for Gavi-eligible countries in sub-Saharan African countries.
Vaccines against malaria were developed before the COVID-19 vaccine was produced. Hamel added, WHO learned a lot from these efforts, which could be used in the development of malaria vaccines in the future.
“We know that new platforms have emerged since the COVID vaccine, including the mRNA platform and now the developer of one of the mRNA vaccines hopes to develop a malaria vaccine using the same platform,” Hamel added.
Last July, BioNTech, the maker of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19, announced that it wanted to continue that success by developing a malaria vaccine using mRNA technology. The pharmaceutical company said it would start clinical trials later this year. [ps/jm]
Technology Topic about Potential First Vaccine Against Malaria First published on VOA More article here, please share.