Following a decade of clinical trials in seven African countries, a potential major breakthrough against malaria, a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people in tropical countries annually has been made in science.
The World Health Organisation on Wednesday said it has given its support for the only approved vaccine; Mosquirix – developed by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to be widely given to African children.
The recommendation was jointly announced in Geneva by the WHO’s top advisory bodies for malaria and immunisation, the Malaria Policy Advisory Group and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation.
Since 2019, 2.3 million doses of Mosquirix have been administered to infants in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in a large-scale pilot programme coordinated by the WHO.
“This is a vaccine developed in Africa by African scientists and we’re very proud,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria (bed nets and spraying to kill mosquitoes that transmit the disease) could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” he added.
Malaria is a disease caused by parasites transmitted to people by the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, vomiting and fatigue.
The WHO says 94% of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people.
According to a WHO estimate, malaria killed 386,000 Africans in 2019, compared with 212,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the past 18 months.
The majority of those whom the disease kills are under age five.
According to a global market study led by the WHO this year, demand for a malaria vaccine is projected to be 50 to 110 million doses per year by 2030 if it is deployed in areas with moderate to high transmission of the disease.
To date, GSK has pledged to produce 15 million doses of Mosquirix annually up to 2028 at a cost of production plus no more than 5% margin.
The challenge now would be mobilising financing for production and distribution of the vaccine, experts said.