Malaria vaccine pilot launched in Malawi :: Partnership welcomes launch of first malaria vaccine pilot

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Malaria

Malaria vaccine pilot launched in Malawi
23 April 2019 News release
WHO welcomes the Government of Malawi’s launch of the world’s first malaria vaccine today in a landmark pilot programme. The country is the first of three in Africa in which the vaccine, known as RTS,S, will be made available to children up to 2 years of age; Ghana and Kenya will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks.

Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes. Most of these deaths are in Africa, where more than 250 000 children die from the disease every year. Children under 5 are at greatest risk of its life-threatening complications. Worldwide, malaria kills 435 000 people a year, most of them children.

“We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years, but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas. We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The malaria vaccine has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.”…

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Partnership welcomes launch of first malaria vaccine pilot
Funding agencies hail important step for the world’s first malaria vaccine
Geneva, 23 April 2019 – Malaria vaccine pilots will be a crucial test for a potentially valuable new tool in the fight against the disease, the three agencies funding the vaccine pilots said following the launch of the first one in Malawi.

The pilots, which will also launch soon in Kenya and Ghana, will aim to vaccinate around 360,000 children per year in the three countries to evaluate the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S in real-life settings, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths and its safety in the context of routine use.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Unitaid are together providing just under US$ 50 million to fund the first phase of the pilots. Ministries of Health in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will implement the pilots, in coordination with WHO.

“Malaria is still one of the biggest killers of children worldwide, taking the lives of over 200,000 children every year,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “These pilots will be crucial to determine the part this vaccine could play in reducing the burden this disease continues to place on the world’s poorest countries.”

“To step up the fight against malaria, we need every available tool,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “If this pilot shows that RTS,S is a cost-effective tool against malaria, it will help us save more children’s lives.”

“The malaria vaccine is an exciting innovation that complements the global health community’s efforts to end the malaria  epidemic,” said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of Unitaid. “It is also a shining example of the kind of inter-agency coordination that we need. We look forward to learning how the vaccine can be integrated for greatest impact into our work.”

In clinical trials the vaccine was found to prevent approximately 4 in 10 malaria cases, as well as 3 in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. It also reduced severe malaria anaemia, the most common reason children die from the disease, by 60%.

A 4-dose schedule is required, with the first dose given as soon as possible after five months of age, doses two and three given at monthly intervals after that, and the fourth dose given 15–18 months after the third dose. The vaccine will not be available in all regions of the countries, nor will it be given to adults or children outside the target age group.

In the Phase 3 trial the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with adverse reactions comparable to those of other childhood vaccines. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) carried out a scientific assessment of RTS,S and concluded that the vaccine has an acceptable safety profile in a scientific opinion issued in July 2015.

The vaccine is being considered as a complementary malaria control tool to be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention. This includes the routine use of insecticide-treated bednets, indoor spraying with insecticides and the timely use of malaria testing and treatment.