JAN 16, 2020 1:00 PM PST

Babies in Africa Receive World's First Malaria Vaccine

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Would you accept a vaccine that was only 40% effective? For those at risk of malaria, the answer is likely a resounding, "yes!" According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria kills more than 400,000 people each year, two-thirds of which are under the age of five. The WHO estimates that one child dies from malaria every two minutes.

The world's first malaria vaccine program was rolled out last year in Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana. Currently, the vaccine is only available to babies in these select regions. However, the ultimate goal is to disperse it throughout Africa.

Although the efficacy of the vaccine is estimated at 40%, the AP reports that experts consider it worthy of an attempt as resistance to treatment is growing. According to the WHO, this first-generation vaccine known as RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) acts against Plasmodium falciparum, which is the most deadly malaria parasite worldwide and most prevalent in Africa. Clinical testing occurred in seven African countries and showed promise to prevent malaria. The WHO reports that children who receive four doses of RTS,S suffer "significantly fewer cases of malaria, including severe, life-threatening malaria," when compared to those who did not receive the vaccine.

According to the WHO, the goal of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) is to reach 360,000 children per year in the selected countries. The first vaccine dose is given at about five months of age, then doses two and three at monthly intervals, and the fourth final dose when the child is about two years of age. With this rollout program, stakeholders hope to determine the feasibility of delivering the required four doses, the vaccine's role in reducing deaths, and the vaccine's safety profile.

The AP reports that the development of this vaccine took about 30 years of research, citing the parasite's complex life cycle as a significant hurdle. Ashley Birkett, director of PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative, told AP reporters, "We don't have any vaccines against parasites in routine use. This is uncharted territory."

The WHO states that the MVIP is expected to continue through 2022. Additionally, the WHO says that this vaccine was developed specifically for Africa and African children, who "bear the greatest burden of malaria worldwide." Future studies are needed before RTS,S can be considered for use outside of Africa.

Sources: AP News, World Health Organization 

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
MAR 17, 2020
Microbiology
MAR 17, 2020
A Toxin Produced by C.difficile Can Damage Intestinal Stem Cells
Intestinal stem cells help regenerate the lining of the intestine, and that lining or epithelium plays a number of critical roles.
MAR 19, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 19, 2020
Does Sucking Zinc Lozenges Help Fight off Coronavirus?
As panic is spreading over the novel coronavirus, the time is ripe for both misinformation and disinformation to thrive. In particular, sucking zinc lozeng
MAR 19, 2020
Cardiology
MAR 19, 2020
Gastric Band Helps Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke
New research has shown that having bariatric surgery, by means of having a gastric band placed around the stomach to restrict food intake, may significantl
MAR 25, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 25, 2020
Boosting Your Immunity to Avoid COVID-19 Infection
With the COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of most people’s minds, you might be wondering what you can do to keep yourself healthy. Though many are
MAR 28, 2020
Cancer
MAR 28, 2020
The Not So Minor Genetic Players in Head and Neck Cancers
Head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are among the most prevalent cancers among smokers, linked to alcohol consumption, and the human papillomavi
MAR 27, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 27, 2020
Possible Link Between Marijuana Use and Heart Health
Research presented in a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that 2.3% of reported cannabis users have
Loading Comments...