Malaria Vaccine: When Will It Be Available?

Photo source, AFP
Photo caption, The children of Malawi depicted here, as well as Ghana and Kenya were part of a pilot program

The WHO says more than 200,000 children under the age of five die of malaria each year in sub-Saharan Africa, a development that, over the decades, could save thousands of lives.

But when will people start benefiting from the vaccine known as RTS, S?

We are looking at this and other important questions.

How effective and safe is it?

The vaccine proved effective six years ago, preventing 0% of malaria and 0% of severe cases.

Since 2001, researchers have been conducting extensive pilot immunization programs in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

More than 800,000 children have received at least one dose, and the WHO says there are no safety concerns.

Does it matter that the protection is relatively low?

It would obviously be better if it was higher, but many would say you have to think about the scale of the problem – in a few million cases, a 40% reduction still saves a huge number of lives.

“This is a moderately effective vaccine … [but] Saving0-40% of cases and avoiding death, saving, can bring a huge benefit to the population, “Pedro Alonso of the WHO told the BBC’s Focus of Africa.

Health authorities are also keen to emphasize that this is a new weapon in the fight against malaria that will be used in conjunction with other preventive measures, such as treatment bed nets and drugs that target the malaria parasite.

How does the vaccine work?

Malaria is a parasite that attacks and destroys our blood cells to reproduce and it is spread by blood-sucking mosquito bites.

The vaccine targets the most deadly and common parasite in Africa: Plasmodium falciparum.

It tries to deal with the form of the parasite that enters the blood of the infected person immediately after the bite, partially stopping the entry into human cells and thus preventing the disease, Dr. Al Alonso said.

It requires four doses to be effective. The first three are given at one-month intervals at five, six and seven months of age and require a final booster at about 18 months.

Children are considered the most at risk of dying from malaria because they did not have the opportunity to develop immunity as adults.

How much will it cost and who will pay?

The vaccine was developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK, which promised to provide production costs and a 5% dose, but did not specify a price.

When it comes to buying these, it depends on the country and the donors to find the money.

Thomas Brewer, GSK’s chief global health officer, told the BBC: “The international community will now have to discuss and then decide how to procure the vaccine.”

Photo source, Getty Images

Rose Jalango, who helped coordinate the pilot program in Kenya, said authorities were waiting for global guidance on how to fund the vaccine as part of a national immunization program.

Currently in Kenya, most funding for vaccination comes from donors such as the Global Vaccine Alliance Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What is the delivery schedule?

Pilot programs will run in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. GSK says it has donated 10 million doses for the study and a quarter of it has been used so far.

The company is committed to delivering 15 million doses a year. If the money is available, they could be available for widespread use by the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023, Mr Brayer said.

But that number may not be enough. According to Ashley Barkett of Path, 100 million doses may be needed each year by the end of the decade, which helped work on the vaccination program.

What infrastructure is needed?

Since this vaccine is designed for children under two years of age it can be combined with other child immunization programs so no additional infrastructure is required.

More public education and some training of health workers will be required.

More than 200,000 children were vaccinated in the pilot program in Kenya and it was made available through outreach programs and remote clinics in rural and remote areas, Dr Jala Jalango told the BBC.

Is there any other vaccine being developed?

But making a malaria vaccine is a long process, because it is a much more complex disease to deal with than Kovid-1 than, for example.

RTS, S is the first malaria vaccine that has gone through all the necessary tests and examinations, but the WHO says the second malaria vaccine could be “extremely useful for malaria control” because it will help meet the expected high demand.

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