Kenya, Ghana and Malawi to Pilot world's first malaria vaccine

Posted April 26, 2017

The disease is spread by mosquitoes when they suck blood from an infected individual and inadvertently transfer the virus to a healthy person when it tries to feed again.

The malaria vaccine is called RTS, S and will be tested whether it will perform well in "real-life" conditions in Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya. "Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine", said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.

The vaccine consists of three injections administered over the course of three months, followed by a final booster dose 18 months later.

They also said that this vaccine has been tested successfully in different well-funded clinical trials but has not been tested in the "real world" that has limited access to health care.

The pilot project should notably assess the effectiveness of the vaccine "in the context of routine use" as well as possible logistical obstacles, Moeti further disclosed.

Also, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) yesterday, said Nigeria accounts for one-quarter of all infant-related deaths and one-third of deaths in children under-five years of age globally.

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According to World Health Organization (WHO), 3.5 million people fall prey to Malaria every year in Pakistan whereas more than 4 lac people die of this disease across the world. The region hosted 90 percent of the 212 million cases recorded around the world in 2015, and 92 percent of malaria deaths in the same year occurred in Africa.

It said preventive treatment for infants, for example, which is safe, cost-effective and well accepted by health workers and communities, is now only being implemented in Sierra Leone.

The pilot program is created to assess whether the success of the vaccine in children aged five to 17 months, which was exhibited in the trials, can be replicated in real life.

"The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations", Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa. The organization made the announcement on the eve of World Malaria Day. She trained with the GSK scientists who did much of the original research to develop the vaccine in its early days.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID, are partnering to provide US$49.2 million for the first phase of the pilot programme which will run from 2017 to 2020. As STAT News' Helen Branswell explains, that suggests the vaccine only delays malaria instead of actually preventing it.