As one of the most challenging diseases to overcome, particularly in Africa, malaria has become a major enemy of humanity for some time. And while today we can often treat and overcome malaria if dealt with quickly enough, vaccination has long been a goal and aim for the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been working constantly with research teams to find a long-term vaccination strategy. Well, work carried out at Oxford University in collaboration with various partners could have found a solution.
Indeed, suggestions that a vaccine that can reach WHO roadmap aims of 75% efficacy are very exciting. This could be the first major malaria vaccine to help genuinely make a lasting impact on the prevalence of malaria across the globe.
Malaria might not be a problem for many developed nations in Europe and America, but it is a major problem particularly across Africa. Indeed, WHO figures in 2019 showed over 200m cases of malaria worldwide, with over 400,000 deaths. Caused by mosquito attacks for the most part, children under the age of five are seen as the most vulnerable to malaria infections. This new vaccination, then, could help to overcome the problem and deliver a much-improved layer of protection to those who need the assistance most.
The latest vaccine is being tested at present for safety and efficacy, and is showing very promising results. So far, a trial has been carried out in Burkina Faso with some 450 children aged 5-17 months. These children were split up into three groups, with one receiving a high dosage, one receiving a low dosage, and another receiving a rabies vaccine.
So far, the findings – which are still to be peer-reviewed – show an impressive efficacy rating of around 77%. The higher dosages were the most impressive, with lower dosages providing around 71% efficacy. However, the vaccine was also free from potential health risks, and the vaccine was “tolerated” by those who took the treatment for the most part.
Now, a larger trial will take place with some 4,800 children aged 5-36 months and taken from four different African nations. This will provide a chance to see the vaccine working at a much higher quantity, giving us even more information about how well the vaccine can expect to perform when it is put into action across a wider population.
For the first time in a while, it feels like there is genuine hope that a vaccination for malaria can be put to good use.