Anti-malaria vaccine is affordable

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Pilot project at Malawi offers hope to malaria victim countries

The world’s first licensed malaria vaccine, also the first to be used against a human parasitic disease of any kind, was launched recently.

World Health Organisation issued a statement welcoming a pilot project in Malawi of administering RTS, S/AS01, a malaria vaccine for children below the age of two years. RTS, S is the first malaria vaccine candidate to receive a positive scientific opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This pilot aims to reduce the burden of the malaria epidemic on the world’s poor countries.

The disease imposes a great socio-economic burden on humanity, and with six other diseases diarrhea, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis B, and pneumonia, accounts for 85% of global infectious disease burden. India alone has 1.5 crore cases of malaria and 19,500 to 20,000 deaths reposted annually. However, most of the deaths by this infection are in Africa, where more than 2.5 lakh children die from the disease every year.

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What is vaccine RTS, S/AS01?

Mosquirix, the trade name for the vaccine RTS, S/AS01, is a recombinant protein-based malaria vaccine. The vaccine was created in 1987 by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and was later developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2014, the vaccine cleared phase III clinical trials which certified that it was both effective and safe for human use.

RTS, S aims to trigger the immune system to defend against the first stages of malaria when the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, the most deadly species of the malaria parasite, enters the bloodstream. Specifically, RTS, S is designed to prevent the malaria parasite from maturing, and multiplying and infecting the liver.

Dr. Katherine O’Brien, the World Health Organization’s director of immunization, stated that the launch of the pilot project “a historic moment in the fight against malaria.”

Side effects of Mosquirix

Like any other vaccine, Mosquirix has some side effects like 

• Local pain

• Swelling, and 

• Low-grade fever. 

However, these side effects are very similar to reactions observed with some standard vaccines given to children. Despite that, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) agree that the benefits of vaccination with RTS,S outweighed the risks.

Aim of the Pilot project

A total of 3,60,000 children under the age of two will fall under vaccine preventive treatment. The pilot project launched in Malawi in African will be joined by Ghana, and Kenya by the end of 2019. The main focus is on areas with moderate-to-high malaria transmission, where the vaccine can have the greatest impact. 

After the successful completion of the pilot project, the World Health Organization will review the results and come out with its recommendations for the use and further development in the Mosquirix vaccine. 

GSK has stated that Mosquirix vaccine would be made available at a not-for-profit price so that it can be affordable to all. The price will be the cost of manufacturing the vaccine plus a small return of around five percent will be reinvested in research and development for second-generation malaria vaccines or vaccines against other neglected tropical diseases.

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