• David Sanmi

New Malaria Vaccine Proven to be safe?

Updated: May 16


Malaria, one of the diseases responsible for the most deaths in Africa, may soon become a thing of the past with the emergence of a vaccine that has proven to be 77% effective. This is huge news as the deadly disease kills more than 400,000 victims yearly, majority of them being children.

The vaccine was trialed in Burkina Faso, where over 450 children were involved. After twelve months of follow up by the University of Oxford team behind it, the vaccine was found to be safe. This paves the way for more extensive trials.

The toll of malaria

The parasites responsible for malaria are transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Many African governments have engaged in campaign efforts to curb the spread by educating their citizens on the factors that encourages the spread of the disease. Mosquitos are usually found around stagnant water. Some governments also distribute insecticide-treated nets or subsidies them.

Malaria carrying mosquito © Jim Gathany/CDC/Handout via Reuters

Despite these efforts, and the fact that malaria is treatable, the disease continues to kill thousands every year, especially in rural areas where healthcare facilities are not readily available. The disease presents symptoms such as fever, headaches and chills.

There have been many trials of malaria vaccines but none has ever shown the level of efficacy the one by the Oxford team has achieved. The Oxford trial started in 2019 and even derived the AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid from the work done on the malaria vaccine.

One of the complexities of making a malaria vaccine is the number of genes that is involved in malaria. This runs into thousands, compared to the coronavirus with just about a dozen. This increases development time significantly.

Great impact on saving lives

Many health practitioners welcome this development and looks forward to the great impact it will have on the practice of medicine in the continent. Halidou Tinto, who works as a parasitology professor, enthused "We look forward to the upcoming 'phase III' trial to demonstrate large-scale safety and efficacy data for a vaccine that is greatly needed in this region."

The minister of health in Burkina Faso, Prof Charlemagne Ouédraogo, is also looking forward to the general availability of the vaccine, "That would be an extremely important new tool for controlling malaria and saving many lives."

The vaccine was produced by The Serum Institute of India. The company says it is ready to produce more than 200 million doses as soon as it gets approval.

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