Kenya Becomes Third Country To Adopt World’s First Malaria Vaccine

Laboratory Scientists Commit To Eradication Of Malaria In Nigeria

Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.

The vaccine — RTSS — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-borne illness.

Kenya, which is rolling-out RTSS in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which earlier this year commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told AFP before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.

“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”

The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.

RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.

The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.

The vaccine prevented about four in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five.

WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world.

Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 percent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.


WHO Says Pilot Phase Of Malaria Vaccine Due In 2018

Malaria DrugsThe world’s first malaria vaccine will be rolled out in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed.

It says funding is now secured for the initial phase of the programme and vaccinations.

The vaccine, known as RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.

A statement by WHO said advanced clinical trials had shown RTS,S to provide partial protection against malaria in young children.

“The pilot deployment of this first-generation vaccine marks a milestone in the fight against malaria.

“These pilot projects will provide the evidence we need from real-life settings to make informed decisions on whether to deploy the vaccine on a wide scale,” the Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, Dr Pedro Alonso, said.

Vaccine Financing

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Thursday approved $15 million for the malaria vaccine pilots, giving assurance of full funding for the first phase of the programme.

Earlier this year, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and UNITAID announced commitments of up to US$ 27.5 million and $9.6 million, respectively, for the first four years of the vaccine programme.

RTS,S was developed through a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and from a network of African research centres.

“WHO recognises and commends the leadership and support of all funding agencies and partners who have made this achievement possible,” Director of the WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, said.

In October 2015, two independent WHO advisory groups comprised of the world’s foremost experts on vaccines and malaria – the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization and the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) – recommended pilot implementation of the RTS,S vaccine in three to five settings in sub-Saharan Africa.

Required Four Doses

These recommendations followed a July 2015 announcement that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had issued a positive scientific opinion of the RTS,S vaccine.

WHO officially adopted the SAGE-MPAC recommendations in January 2016 and has since worked to mobilise financial support for the pilots and to finalise the programme design.

The pilot programme will evaluate the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S; the impact of RTS,S on lives saved; and the safety of the vaccine in the context of routine use.

It will also assess the extent to which the vaccine’s protective effect demonstrated in children aged 5–17 months old in the Phase Three trial can be replicated in real-life settings.

RTS,S is the first malaria vaccine to successfully complete pivotal Phase Three testing.

The Phase Three trial enrolled more than 15,000 infants and young children in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Countries that participated in the Phase three clinical trials will be prioritised for inclusion in the WHO pilot programme, who said.

Consultations are ongoing and the names of the three selected countries will be announced in the coming weeks.

Who explained that there were two target age groups in the Phase Three RTS,S trials – infants who received the malaria vaccine together with other routine childhood vaccines at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age and older children who received their first dose of the malaria vaccine between five and 17 months of age.

The RTS,S vaccine is proposed as a tool to complement the existing package of WHO-recommended malaria preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures and will be used in combination with the current interventions. Other tools include: long-lasting insecticidal bed-nets, spraying inside walls of dwellings with insecticides, preventive treatment for infants and during pregnancy, prompt diagnostic testing, and treatment of confirmed cases with effective anti-malarial medicines.

Deployment of these tools has already dramatically lowered malaria disease burden in many African settings. Between 2,000 and 2015, the rate of new malaria cases in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 42% and malaria mortality rates fell by 66%.

However, this region continues to account for approximately 90% of global malaria cases and deaths.

As RTS,S is only partially effective, it will be essential that any vaccinated patients with a fever be tested for malaria, and that all those with a confirmed malaria diagnosis are treated with high quality, effective anti-malarial medicines.

Final Clinical Trial Of Malaria Vaccine Shows Promising Signs

Malaria VaccineMillions of Nigerian children and indeed African children now have a chance of being protected from Malaria, if an ongoing final clinical vaccines trial ends successfully.

The test which is already carried out on 16,000 children from seven African countries, found that booster doses are of limited use, but children aged between 5-17 months were given three doses of the vaccine and was 46 per cent effective.

Scientists have been working on the vaccine for more than 20 years but observers believe there is still a long way to go.

Study Author and Professor of Clinical, Topical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Brian Greenwood, said the result from the clinical trials was a little disappointing.

“I hoped the vaccine will be more effective, but we were never going to end up with the success seen in measles vaccines with 97 per cent efficacy, that is because the Malaria parasite has a complicated life cycle and it had learned how to invade the immune system over hundreds of years.”

The vaccinations took place in 11 sites across Burkinafaso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Malaria currently kills more than 660,000 people a year, and some 1,300 children in sub-Saharan Africa die every day from the parasitic disease – nearly one child every minute.