Coronavirus is seen as the deadliest disease at large right now as we speak. Spoiler alert: it isn’t. Malaria is bar none the most deadliest disease ever to have plagued humanity. Don’t trust our word? Google it! COVID has a vaccine, Polio has, together with Tetanus, Measles, Hepatitis, and several others. Good news, right? More good news? Malaria too now has a vaccine. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this is the first ever vaccine developed to fight the epidemic. Have you taken your COVID doses yet? You need four more for malaria.
Related media: Gravitas: WHO Recommends First Malaria Vaccine For Children
Whence Cometh The Vaccine?
The WHO has approved the use of RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) — the world’s first malaria vaccine — for general use in children in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high rates Plasmodium falciparum malaria transmissions. This comes as a WHO recommendation based on results from an ongoing pilot project in countries like Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 cases of malaria in children since 2019.
“This is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s General Director, in a statement. “Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save ten of thousands of young lives each year.”
The vaccine, commonly known as Mosquirix™ (cute name, anyway), consists of a part of a protein from the parasite bound to part of a second protein — from the hepatitis virus — will help immune cells in the body recognize the substance. Malaria remains the #1 killer disease among children in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, responsible for over 400,000 deaths a year — a third being children under 5 years.
The End Of Days For Malaria Is Nigh
Malaria is mostly tackled with the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, and drug treatment to reduce spread. But in recent years, WHO and its affiliates have reported a stagnation in progress against the disease.
“For centuries, malaria has stalked sub-Saharan Africa, causing immense personal suffering,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, in a statement. “We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine, and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use.”
Based on two advisory bodies of the WHO — one for immunization and the other for malaria — it recommends that in the context of comprehensive malaria control, the RTS,S vaccine be use for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined. The vaccine should be administered in a schedule of four doses in children at least 5 months of age and older. This recommendation was based on the key findings of data and insights obtained from the pilot projects.
These findings include feasible delivery to remote areas, reaching roughly two-thirds of children who are not sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets, and showing signs of a strong safety profile. More than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to 7 out of 10 children in the three sub-Saharan African countries. In areas the vaccination was introduced, there has been no decline in the usage of treated bed nets, an uptake of other childhood vaccinations, or febrile illness. There has even been a 30 percent reduction in deadly severe malaria cases in areas where insecticide-treated bed nets are widely used.
Goodbye Malaria. Welcome Mosquirix™
Funding for the pilot projects were mobilized through an unprecedented collaboration among three key global health funding bodies, namely Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria; and Unitaid. WHO’s next step would include additional funding and decisions from the global health community for a global rollout, and countries would have to make decisions to adopt the vaccine as measures to either ensure a nationwide malaria vaccination, or as part of a necessary malaria control strategy.
“Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults.” Dr Moeti added.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Oct 08, 2021.