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Innovative malaria vaccine to be trialled in Malawi

Published on 23/04/19 at 09:41am

An innovative malaria vaccine is set to be trialled in Malawi as part of large scale trials which will see the drug rolled out to 120,000 children in three African countries over the next four years.

The trial of GSK’s Mosquirix (RTS,S) will see as many as 120,000 children in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya receive the vaccine.

The trial is set to begin in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe on Tuesday of this week and will be rolled out in Kenya and Ghana in weeks to come.

The three countries were chosen due to the fact that large scale preventative programmes in which measures such as mosquito-bed nets are used to prevent malaria, have failed to work.

The vaccine, which has been in development for more than 30 years, was approved for the pilot programme in 2015. The three decade long development process has cost an estimated $1 billion (£770 million) since the vaccine was first developed in 1987.

Developed in collaboration with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine has in previous trials reduced episodes of malaria, in children aged between 5 and 17 months old, by nearly 40%.

While the vaccine does not give full protection against malaria, it is the most effective vaccine in preventing malaria which has been developed so far.

“A vaccine that is highly efficacious, 90% or so, that's not in view at this point,” Mary Hamel from the WHO said. “But this vaccine getting to where it is shows that a malaria vaccine can be made. It will be a pathfinder.”

In order to be effective, the vaccine must be administered four times on a strict schedule – once a month for three months and then again 18 months later.

The trials, which will be led by the World Health Organization (WHO), are expected to be completed by 2023.

“Malaria can kill a child in less than 24 hours, and even if the child survives, malaria can impact every organ, causing brain injury or even kidney issues. Prevention is better than treatment,” Tisungane Mvalo, a paediatrician at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Project-Malawi in Lilongwe said.

Louis Goss

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