A new chapter unfolded in the ongoing fight against malaria, as the World Health Organization (WHO) greenlit a second vaccine against the deadly disease. Providing a more economical and readily obtainable alternative, this comes as an encouraging development in the war waged by many nations against malaria.
This game-changing decision was spurred by the insightful recommendations of two esteemed panels of experts advising the use of the new vaccine in vulnerable children. Uplifting news was shared with the world by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who spoke of the medical accomplishment, “Once, as a malaria researcher, I could only dream of a time when we would have a potent vaccine against the disease. Today, we have not one but two.”
This revolutionary tri-dose vaccine was the brainchild of pioneers from Oxford University and was brought to life with assistance from the Serum Institute of India. Notable research indicates that the vaccine’s efficacy surpasses 75%. Further, it offers protection for an additional year, provided a booster is administered. The Director-General revealed an affordable price range of $2 to $4 per shot, with availability potentially opening up in some countries next year, subject to funding agreement.
Earlier, regulators in Ghana and Burkina Faso had expressed their trust in the vaccine. While rejoicing the arrival of the new tool in the fight against malaria, John Johnson from Doctors Without Borders cautioned the fight isn’t over yet, emphasising the continued need for bed nets and insecticides.
In a significant stride earlier this year, the first malaria vaccine had been sanctioned by WHO, aiming to curb the relentless scourge that malaria inflicts particularly on Africa, which sees the majority of global cases. However, the effectiveness of the first vaccine, Mosquirix, sparked debate due to its 30% effective rate and waning protection over months.
One glaring difference between the two alternatives, according to Johnson, lies in their accessibility. Vaccine availability may pose a struggle, as GSK currently has the capacity to produce merely 15 million doses per annum, greatly overshadowed by Serum Institute’s potential annual production of 200 million doses of the Oxford vaccine.
Meanwhile, Emeritus Professor Alister Craig from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine advised nations to opt for the Oxford vaccine instead, seeing in it the potential to drastically reduce malaria-induced fatalities across Africa.
Nevertheless, Craig warned that while the new vaccine is promising, it is not the silver bullet that ends malaria. Escalating drug resistance and new mosquito species threaten the efficacy of these vaccines, leaving us to grapple with the sophisticated enemy that malaria remains.
In a parallel development, a dengue vaccine manufactured by Takeda earned approval from WHO’s experts. Dengue, rampant in tropical Latin American and Asian nations, can result in severe internal bleeding and organ damage, with no exclusive treatment available. Consequently, the newly approved vaccine offers an encouraging line of defense against this debilitating disease.