According to reports from BBC, the malaria vaccine from the University of Oxford team has proved to be 77% effective in early trials and could be a major breakthrough against the dreaded malaria which has been ravaging major parts of sub Saharan Africa.
Malaria is a life threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through mosquito bites. Although preventable and curable, the World Health Organization estimates there were 229 million cases worldwide in 2019 and 409,000 deaths.
The illness starts with symptoms such as fever, headaches and chills and, without treatment, can progress quickly to severe illness and often death. It is estimated to kill more than 400,000 people a year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Clinical trials on the vaccine
Over the past 10 years, the World Health Organization have been trying many malaria vaccines with the hope of ending the public health challenge caused by the disease. However, the vaccine innovated by the University of Oxford team seems to be the first to meet the required target.
When tried in 450 children in Burkina Faso, the vaccine was found to be safe, and showed “high-level efficacy” over 12 months of follow-up.
Larger trials in nearly 5,000 children between the ages of five months and three years will now be carried out across four African countries to confirm the findings.
Health impact of the malaria vaccine.
Study author Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute and professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said he believed the vaccine was the first to reach the World Health Organization’s goal of at least 75% efficacy.
The most effective malaria vaccine to date had only shown 55% efficacy in trials on African children. Vaccines against malaria have been rolled out and tried in countries such as Ghana and the Gambia.
The trials of this malaria vaccine started in 2019, long before coronavirus appeared – and the Oxford team developed its Covid vaccine (with AstraZeneca) on the strength of its research into malaria, Prof Hill said.
A malaria vaccine has taken much longer to come to fruition because there are thousands of genes in malaria compared to around a dozen in coronavirus, and a very high immune response is needed to fight off the disease.
“That’s a real technical challenge,” Prof Hill said. “The vast majority of vaccines haven’t worked because it’s very difficult.” However, he said the trial results meant the vaccine was “very deployable” and “has the potential to have a major public health impact”.
Malaria Vaccine and promises for Africa.
In Africa, there have been more deaths from malaria than from coronavirus in the past year. In fact, it is highly suggested that a child dies every second from malaria. Therefore, the prospects and benefits of having a malaria vaccine cannot be overemphasized.
According to malariafreefuture.org, the economic impact of malaria is estimated to cost Africa $12 billion every year. This figure factors in costs of health care, absenteeism, days lost in education, decreased productivity due to brain damage from cerebral malaria, and loss of investment and tourism.
Malaria is bad for business. In a 2004 survey, nearly three-quarters of companies in the Africa region reported that malaria was negatively affecting their business.
Poor children and women in rural areas are at the greatest risk of death or severe debility from malaria, which drains the resources of families. Overall, households in Africa lose up to 25% of income to the disease.
With all these statistics and inferences the promises of a malaria vaccine on Africa and her economy will be enormous. More than a million African children’s lives could be saved from this vaccine, just as over $12 billion worth of money can be saved and reinvested into the African economy.
Without continued investment in this vaccine, we may not only lose the gains made via the use of ACTs and other malaria prevention and treatment methods but the situation could grow worse and cost even more in the future. Luckily the Serum Institute of India, which has manufactured the vaccine, says it is confident of delivering more than 200 million doses of the vaccine as soon as it is approved by regulators. This must be a great news!!!
Do you have any doubts about the malaria vaccine? Will you take it freely when it finally gets approved and is rolled out? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
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