A Malaria Vaccine From Oxford University Just Became the First to Hit WHO's Efficacy Goal
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A vaccine from scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University has proven a 77% efficacy in a trial of 450 children in Burkina Faso over the course of a year. That makes it the first to meet the WHO's of a 75% efficacy against malaria, a deadly disease that is transmitted by the mosquitoes.
Director Adrian Hill of the Jenner Institute — where the Oxford-AstroZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was also created — told The Guardian that he believes the malaria vaccine could significantly cut the death toll.
"What we’re hoping to do is take that 400,000 down to tens of thousands in the next five years, which would be absolutely fantastic," he said.
Reseachers are now reportedly conducting larger trials involving nearly 5,000 children in four countries. Hill said that the institute, which has struck a partnership with the Serum Institute of India to mass-produce the malaria vaccine at a low cost, will apply for emergency approval of vaccine — just like it did with the Covid-19 vaccine.
"I’m making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than Covid in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorization for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa," he said. "And that’s never been done before."
The process would involve requesting regulatory agencies in Europe or the U.K. to provide a scientific opinion of the vaccine and then asking WHO to green-light its use in Africa.
"They did Covid in months — why shouldn’t they do malaria in a similar length of time as the health problem is an even greater scale in Africa?" Hill asked.
Other vaccines against malaria have been in the works for a while, according to The Guardian. One vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline, for instance, has only been partly effective in clinical trials, preventing 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases among small children in Africa over four years.
Oxford's malaria vaccine, made in collaboration with Novavax, was tested on children between five to 17 months old. The children had three doses and were also given a booster jab.
"The Jenner Institute’s groundbreaking work on both the new Covid-19 and malaria vaccines is a great example of this and demonstrates just how much humanity’s safety is dependent on new science," Gareth Jenkins of Malaria NO More UK told the publication.
WHO estimates that there were 229 million malaria cases in 2019, with about 409,000 deaths.