Monday, 18 October 2021

WHO approves World-first Malaria Vaccine

WHO approves World-first Malaria Vaccine

On Wednesday, the WHO endorsed an RTS, S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the first for a mosquito-borne disease that died more than 4,00,000 people yearly, mainly affects African children.

The decision followed a pilot program deployed since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. More than two million doses were giving of the vaccines, first made by a GSK, a pharmaceutical company, in 1987.

After reviewing evidence from those countries, the WHO said it was "recommending the broad use of the world's first malaria vaccine, the agency's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The WHO said it was recommending children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission get four doses up to the age of two.

The agency said.

Child dies due to malaria, every 2 minutes,

More than half of malaria deaths worldwide are in six sub-Saharan African countries, and almost a quarter are in Nigeria alone, according to 2019 WHO figures.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle pain, and then chills, fever, and sweating.

Findings from the vaccine pilot showed it "significantly reduces severe malaria which is the deadly form by 30 percent," said Kate O'Brien, Director of WHO's Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals.

The vaccine is "feasible to deliver," she added, and "it's also reaching the unreached...

Two-thirds of children don't sleep under a bed net in those countries are now benefiting from a vaccine."

Many vaccines exist against viruses and bacteria, but this was the first time that the WHO recommended using a vaccine against a human parasite.

The vaccine acts against Plasmodium falciparum -- one of five malaria parasite species and the most deadly.

Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, said

"From a scientific perspective this is a huge breakthrough,"

WHO approves World first Malaria Vaccine 1unsplash image

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'Glimmer of hope'

Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said Wednesday's recommendation "offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease."

Before the newly recommended vaccine can reach children in need, the next step will be funding.

"That will be the next major step... Then we will be set up for scaling of doses and decisions about where the vaccine will be most useful and how it will be deployed," said O'Brien.

Gavi vaccine alliance said in a statement after the WHO announcement that "global stakeholders, including Gavi, will consider whether and how to finance a new malaria vaccination programme for countries in sub-Saharan Africa."

In April, the fight against malaria received a boost when researchers from Britain's Oxford University announced that their Matrix-M vaccine candidate had become the first to surpass the WHO's threshold of 75-percent efficacy.

Germany's BioNTech, which developed a coronavirus vaccine with US giant Pfizer, also said it aimed to start trials for a malaria vaccine next year using the same breakthrough mRNA technology.

The WHO also hopes this latest recommendation will encourage scientists to develop more malaria vaccines.

The RTS, S/AS01 is "a first generation, really important one," said Alonso, "but we hope... it stimulates the field to look for other types of vaccines to completement or go beyond this one."

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