WHO Approves First Malaria Vaccine, a Lifesaver for Children Worldwide
Mosquirix vaccine is given in three doses between the ages of 5 and 17 months, with a fourth dose about 18 months later
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The first vaccine to protect against malaria has been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and could prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of children a year.
Malaria kills about half a million people worldwide annually. Nearly all of those deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and include 260,000 children younger than 5 years, The New York Times reported.
The Mosquirix vaccine is given in three doses between the ages of 5 months and 17 months, with a fourth dose about 18 months later. In clinical trials, the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine was about 50 percent effective against severe malaria in the first year, but that fell to close to zero by the fourth year. After the clinical trials, the vaccine was incorporated into routine immunization programs in Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana. So far, more than 2.3 million doses have been given to more than 800,000 children in those countries. That boosted the percentage of children protected against malaria in some way to more than 90 percent, from less than 70 percent, Mary Hamel, M.D., head of the WHO malaria vaccine implementation program, told The Times.
Last year, a modeling study estimated that use of the vaccine in countries with the highest incidence of malaria could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children younger than 5 years each year, according to The Times. Another recent trial assessed how well a combination of the vaccine and preventive drugs protected children during high malaria transmission seasons. This dual approach was found to be much more effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death than either method alone.
The vaccine -- the first for any parasitic disease -- triggers the immune system to target Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most common one in Africa.
Later this year, the board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is expected to consider financing a broader rollout of the vaccine across Africa. If Gavi also approves the vaccine, it will buy the vaccine for countries that request it. That process is likely to take at least a year, The Times reported.