New malaria vaccine is 77% effective at stopping infection in African trials -Report
London, April 23, 2021 (AltAfrica)-A new malaria vaccine from the Oxford institute behind the coronavirus jab is 77 per cent effective at stopping infection, in results that suggest it could be a game changer in defeating the illness.
The new study, from clinical trials of 450 children, is published as the vaccine enters larger-scale human trials to test for rarer side-effects
If safety is assured, health authorities say that it will become the key weapon in eliminating the disease, which is responsible for half a million deaths a year, mostly in children.
The hunt for a malaria vaccine has been going on the best part of a century. One, the Mosquirix vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, has been through lengthy clinical trials but is only partially effective, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years. It is being piloted by the World Health Organization in parts of Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
The Oxford vaccine is the first to meet the WHO goal of 75% efficacy against the mosquito-borne parasite disease. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries.
Prof Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute, where the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine was invented, said he believed the vaccine had the potential to cut the death toll dramatically. “What we’re hoping to do is take that 400,000 down to tens of thousands in the next five years, which would be absolutely fantastic.”
Other interventions, such as impregnated bednets and malarial drugs, have reduced the death toll from a million a year, he said, and those must continue. But, if the vaccine could cut deaths to the tens of thousands, they might be able to look towards “a greater goal – eventually eradicating malaria”.
Hill said the institute might apply for emergency approval for the malaria vaccine just as it did for the Covid jab. “I’m making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than Covid in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorisation for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa. And that’s never been done before.”
The institute would probably ask the regulatory bodies in Europe or the UK for a scientific opinion on the vaccine and then apply to the World Health Organization for approval for use in Africa. “They did Covid in months – why shouldn’t they do malaria in a similar length of time as the health problem is an even greater scale in Africa?” Hill said.
The vaccine will be manufactured at large scale and low-cost, say the researchers, who have arranged a deal with the Serum Institute of India, which is involved in manufacturing the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
The Serum Institute has had to delay supplies of the Covid vaccine to the rest of the world because of the huge rise in cases in India, but has promised to deliver 200m doses a year of the malaria vaccine if it is licensed.
Hill said the best-case scenario was approval by the end of 2022, by which time the Serum Institute would have plenty of capacity.