care assistant (HAS) receives malaria vaccine from the bottle for an injection to be administered to a child at the beginning of the pilot program for malaria vaccine at the Mitundu Community Hospital in Malawi’s main district of Lilongwe on April 23, 2019.  Sometimes a vaccine is a slamdunk. Take the 97.5% effective Ebola vaccine, for example, or the 97% effective measles vaccine. Other times, a vaccine is a dud, but offers little or no protection and is clearly intended for the dustbin.
Then there is a third group: the vaccines that fall in the middle. They can protect some, but far from everyone. The fact of these vaccines is less secure ̵
1; an open question.
Such is the case with the world’s first malaria vaccine, which on Tuesday, April 23, was carefully added to routine vaccinations in the African nation of Malawi as part of a pilot program. Ghana and Kenya will also introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks.
The vaccine, called RTS, S, is only about 39 percent effective in preventing malaria. It is only in children who receive four separate doses. It is only 29 percent effective in preventing the most serious forms of mosquito-borne disease.
Still, with over 200 million sources of malaria worldwide each year and 435,000 deaths, even modest effects can be translated into tens of thousands of lives saved.
“This is a landmark,” Kate O & # 39; told Brien for reporters during a press conference Tuesday. She is Director of Immunization, Vaccine and the Biological Department of the World Health Organization. RTS, S is a “first vaccine”, she added. It is the first malaria vaccine to show such effect after decades of research and dozens of other candidates. It is also the first to reach young, vulnerable children in a routine vaccination program.
RTS, S has been in work for more than 30 years. It was created in 1987 on GlaxoSmithKline and works by containing a fragment of a protein from the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum . That fragment urges the immune system to attack after a mosquito has first delivered the parasite into the bloodstream and before the parasite is able to infect the liver. This is where it can mature, guess and reemerge to infect red blood cells and cause disease symptoms.
From 2009 to 2014, researchers tested RTS, S in a clinical phase III study of seven African countries, where 250,000 children die each year of parasitic infection. Data from almost 15,500 children and children in the trials showed that the vaccine is only about 39 percent effective. It remains to be seen whether the effective degree will be retained in real settings.
Still, with malaria’s steep deaths and no other vaccine candidates on the horizon, public health experts made the difficult call to recommend that RTS, S beyond the trials, roll out, but they do so cautiously. Researchers closely follow the pilot vaccination programs in the three countries, where they will track efficacy, safety and how well parents do to bring their children to all four vaccine doses. The results will guide political decisions on whether the vaccine will be used elsewhere in the future.
“We think this can be another tool – an incomplete tool with a modest effect – just like all our other malaria testing tools – but, when used incompletely, can actually have a major impact,” says Pedro Alonso, head of WHO Global Malaria Program The other tools used for malaria include insecticide sprayed indoors, bed nets, and improvements in malaria testing and treatment. “We are dealing with a very, very hard organism,” added Dr. Alonso, speaking P. falciparum parasites that cause the disease These are “very complex organisms,” he says, and we do not know how long it will take researchers to get a better vaccine.
The pilot programs aim to reach about 360,000 children per year over the three countries, it will last for five years, at which time public health experts will assess the future of RTS, S.