HEALTH

Health workers welcome malaria vaccine

GSK has committed to produce 15 million doses.

In Summary

•The Mosquirix Vaccine works by preventing the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the live form which it normally enters the blood.

• The malaria vaccine took long because malaria unlike a virus, is caused by a parasite.

A nurse administers the malaria vaccine to a child during pilot.
A nurse administers the malaria vaccine to a child during pilot.
Image: COURTESY

Care givers and health workers have lauded WHO's recommendation for broader use of the world’s first malaria vaccine -RTS,S/AS01E (RTS,S) - whose trade name is Mosquirix.

“It is gratifying to know that a malaria vaccine developed specifically for African children could soon be more widely available,” PATH’S Chief of the Africa Region Dr Nanthalile Mugala said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“This is especially true now, when progress in combatting malaria has stalled in parts of the Africa region and children remain at increased risk of dying from the disease.”

PATH has worked on the development and implementation of the  vaccine for more than 20 years.

“As caregivers saw the benefits of the malaria vaccine for their children, we saw their trust in the vaccine, and the health systems, grow,” noted Dr Mugala.

According to Unicef data, one child dies every two minutes from malaria.

Malaria programme head of division Dr George Githuka said 220,000 children benefited from the trial programme and were vaccinated.

"The pilot aimed to see if the vaccine would be accepted and the impact it would have in terms of malaria case reduction," he said during an interview with the Star.

"The mothers were positive about the vaccine and it was given to the babies, alongside the other vaccines and it did not affect them."

"This is a revolution and its impacts will be felt much later."

Dr Ashley Birkett, director of PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative, said, “Using all the information generated by the malaria vaccine pilots, modeling groups have shown that Mosquirix  would be a cost-effective addition to the suite of currently available malaria interventions.”

Through ongoing pilot programmes in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya, more than 800,000 children have been reached over three years since 2019.

It has proved  to be effective, having been tested through routine childhood immunisation in affected areas of the country such as Kisumu, Busia and Kakamega where it was reported that two-thirds of children that were not sleeping under a mosquito net.

"This is how we fight malaria, layering imperfect tools on top of each other," said Birkett.

PATH has worked on the development and implementation of the  vaccine for more than 20 years.

It has worked with GSK during Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials.

The Mosquirix Vaccine works by preventing the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the live form which it normally enters the blood, and affect red blood cells, leading to malaria.

“ The malaria vaccine took long because malaria unlike a virus, is caused by a parasite, meaning a parasite can change into different forms and it makes it hard for the immune system to track it so the vaccine then, targets the early form of the parasite" WHO said.

A second generation malaria vaccine,  called R21/Matrix-M that was developed by scientists at Britain's University of Oxford showed up to 77% efficacy in a year-long study involving 450 children in Burkina Faso, researchers said in April  but it  is still in the trial stages. 

GSK after welcoming the WHO recommendation has  committed to produce 15 million doses of Mosquirix annually up to 2028 at a cost of production plus no more than 5% margin.

"This long-awaited landmark decision can reinvigorate the fight against malaria in the region at a time when progress on malaria control has stalled," Thomas Breuer, GSK's chief global health officer, said in a statement.

“This vaccine was developed in Africa by African scientists and we are very proud,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"The preventable disease caused by parasites transmitted by infected mosquitoes causes symptoms of fever, vomiting and fatigue and could kill a newborn by one bite. It will have a severe impact in Africa if rolled out in high numbers" a UN expert said.

 

Edited by CM