By Muskan Kumar—Correspondent
On October 6th of this year, the World Health Organization(WHO) approved the first-ever vaccine against Malaria, which has been recommended for use in areas with moderate to high transmission of P. falciparum malaria.
The approval is based on pilot programs run in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. The WHO explains that the vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden. The first 3 doses are given a month apart each and the final dose is given at around 18 months.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says this is a historic moment. “The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health, and malaria control.”
Mr. Snow, a biology teacher at SHS, says that this vaccine is unique as it’s the first for a eukaryotic parasite while most vaccines are against microbes such as viruses and bacteria.
The vaccine has low efficacy when compared to Covid-19 vaccines, preventing 40% of malaria cases and 30% of severe cases as reported by the WHO.
Mrs. Munden, a Wellness teacher at SHS, says that even the 40% protection along with other measures will significantly lessen the risk of hospitalization and death. “Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases in the world causing over 400,000 deaths each year so reducing that by any amount will be huge.”
“Children represent the largest number of deaths and they can get it more than once,” she added,
“It’s important because Malaria is the 3rd largest killer of young children worldwide, following pneumonia and diarrhea,” said Mr. Snow.
Badara Cisse, a malaria researcher at the Institute for Health Research, Epidemiological Surveillance and Training in Dakar, says that he respects the researchers for the massive effort, but a massive amount of money has been put into the vaccine for rather disappointing results.
Cisse added, “People will wonder why a 30-year-old, partially effective vaccine is suddenly being introduced during a pandemic — and targeted only at Africans.”
Ashley Birkett, head of the malaria programs at PATH, a nonprofit organization focused on global health, however said, “Progress against malaria has really stalled over the last five or six years, particularly in some of the hardest hit countries in the world.”
Cisse has acknowledged the lack of progress. “With the devastation of COVID-19, and with progress stalled on malaria control, and news of resistance to anti-malaria drugs, it’s uplifting to see some positive news.”
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, says that malaria is the primary cause of childhood illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. “We have long hoped for an effective malaria vaccine and now for the first time ever, we have such a vaccine recommended for widespread use,” said Moeti.
“Today’s recommendation offers a glimmer of hope for the continent which shoulders the heaviest burden of the disease and we expect many more African children to be protected from malaria and grow into healthy adults,” he added.