Malaria vaccine to be 'real life' tested in Africa

Malaria vaccine to be 'real life' tested in Africa

The WHO said Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programs, wide use of bed-nets, and well-functioning immunization programs. The vaccine has the aim of training the human body's immune system to attack the malaria parasite.

"The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news", explains Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement.

The vaccine consists of three injections administered over the course of three months, followed by a final booster dose 18 months later.

"The world's first malaria vaccine is a real achievement that has been 30 years in the making", said the chief executive of Gavi, Dr. Seth Berkley. Currently, the World Health Organization is developing pilots in three countries to find out whether they could start a full malaria vaccine program there. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs.

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The disease infects more than 200 million people and kills nearly half a million every year, according to figures from institutions specialized in its treatment.

However, there has been enormous progress in fighting the disease, as from 2000 to 2015, there was a 62% reduction in malaria deaths, according to the World Health Organization, and a 21% reduction in the number of cases. The goal of this program is to figure out whether it's feasible to deliver all four of the required vaccinations to kids in the region.

The WHO pilot program will assess whether the Mosquirix's protective effect in children aged five to 17 months can be replicated in real-life.

Despite huge progress, there are still 212 million new cases of malaria each year and 429,000 deaths.

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This is yet another solid front against a disease that has for years remained a major killer of children, women and men, taking a toll on productivity in the regions where it is endemic. For Africa, which suffers the brunt of global malaria cases, it's welcome news a long time coming. In the trial, the vaccine was administered to 11,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa, and it decreased mortality by 50 percent.

"There will be other vaccines and they'll be more efficient, but in the meantime, this will have a significant influence". The vaccine was also able to reduce the number of the most severe cases by a third and cut down on the number of children needing hospitalization.

The vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, does not promise full protection against the mosquito-borne disease, but it is the most successful scientifically-vetted malaria vaccine at our disposal.

Acting WHO Representative in Pakistan said that on World Malaria Day, WHO is calling on countries and their development partners to provide universal access to malaria prevention tools for everyone at risk.

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