In sub-Saharan Africa, more than a quarter million children under the age of five die every year from Malaria. Statistics marking this life-threatening disease may soon decrease, however, as a vaccine against malaria was recently approved by a European medical agency for use in Africa.
European regulators examined phase III clinical trial results involving more than 16,000 young children. Their tests were conducted by research centers in eight Africa countries, including Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
The remedy, RTS,S (also known as Mosquirix) was administered to children aged 6 weeks to 17 months in three doses. Over the first 18 months following three doses of RTS, S, malaria cases were reduced by almost half in children aged 5-17 months at the time of the first vaccination, and by 27% in infants aged 6-12 weeks.
By the end of the study, four years of follow-up in children RTS,S reduced malaria cases by 39%, and by 27% over three years of follow-up in infants. In areas experiencing the highest incidences of malaria, more than 6,000 clinical malaria cases were prevented over the study period for every 1,000 children vaccinated.*
When the disease first enters the human host’s bloodstream or liver, RTS,S triggers the body’s immune system to defend against the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite.
The entire world is embracing this positive news, as it is the first time anyone has ever been able to make a vaccine against a parasite.
“It’s absolutely an astonishing day,” GlaxoSmithKline’s Vice President for Africa told CNN.
Perhaps the best part is that GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that worked on this vaccine for 30 years and received $200 million from the Gates Foundation, is making RTS,S available as a not-for-profit drug. It will be offered at a low cost to cover manufacturing costs plus a 5% markup, with all money going back into further research for a malaria vaccine that could possibly be even more effective.
To date, the pharmaceutical company has invested more than $365 million and expects to invest a further $200 to $250 million until the vaccine is suitable for market.
US scientists may be on the verge of a breakthrough, as well. As was reported in 2013, a new vaccine being tested proved 100% successful against malaria, a statistical first in history. While at that time more research needed to be conducted, both accounts prove hopeful that an end to malaria may be experienced within the next century.
Now, with the approval from the European Medicine Agency, the vaccine will next be considered for use by the World Health Organizations. Individual countries in sub-Saharan Africa may also decide if and how they will use the vaccine along with current Malaria prevention techniques.
80% of the children involved in the clinical trials were also protected by insecticide-treated bed nets, so every preventative action that can be taken to ward off mosquitos should still be put into place, should the vaccine be released soon.
*These statistics and more can be fact-checked on CNN’s initial coverage here.
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