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
SEP 28, 2021
Neuroscience
Researchers Develop a New Method for Analyzing How Ketamine-Induced Anesthesia Affects the Brain
SEP 28, 2021
Researchers Develop a New Method for Analyzing How Ketamine-Induced Anesthesia Affects the Brain
Researchers developed a statistical model to describe the neural mechanisms underlying ketamine-induced anesthesia
SEP 29, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Study Suggests Cell Reprogramming Can Repair Heart Attack Damage
SEP 29, 2021
Study Suggests Cell Reprogramming Can Repair Heart Attack Damage
Cells carry the genome in their nucleus, and the genes that are expressed give a cell its identity. Researchers have bee ...
OCT 07, 2021
Neuroscience
Unclogged: Constipation Drug May Stimulate Memory and Cognition
OCT 07, 2021
Unclogged: Constipation Drug May Stimulate Memory and Cognition
A drug commonly prescribed for constipation shows promise for memory and cognition
OCT 19, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Researchers develop a potent antiviral drug for dengue fever
OCT 19, 2021
Researchers develop a potent antiviral drug for dengue fever
Dengue fever is a mosquito borne illness that is widespread, especially in tropical countries. The global incidence of d ...
OCT 21, 2021
Technology
Telehealth Aids Early Autism Detection and Diagnosis
OCT 21, 2021
Telehealth Aids Early Autism Detection and Diagnosis
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has become a much more prominent fixture in healthcare practice. Wh ...
OCT 21, 2021
Coronavirus
FDA approves mixing and matching COVID booster shots
OCT 21, 2021
FDA approves mixing and matching COVID booster shots
On Wednesday, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Americans to be given a different ...
Loading Comments...