A new malaria vaccine has been developed by scientists at the University of Oxford. The vaccine, which has been described as “world-changing”, could be rolled out by next year.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease. According to the World Health Organization, in 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria worldwide and approximately 627,000 deaths.
The disease is caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. It mostly kills infants and young children and, despite progress with bed nets, insecticides, and drugs, remains deadly.
The results of the trial were published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal and show that three initial doses of the vaccine followed by a booster the following year could provide up to 80% protection against malaria.
It has taken over 100 years to develop an effective vaccine against the malaria parasite. Scientists have struggled as the disease is complex and difficult to immunize against.
Last year, the WHO gave permission for a malaria vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK to be used in Africa. However, the Oxford team claims their vaccine is more effective and can be manufactured at a low cost and on a larger scale.
The scientists say their vaccine is cheap to produce and they have already made a deal with the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer – the Serum Institute of India – to manufacture more than 100 million doses a year.
In the next few weeks, the team will start the process of getting approval for the vaccine. The initial trial involved 409 children in Nanoro, Burkina Faso, but the final approval will be based on the results of a larger trial of 4,800 children.
Gareth Jenkins, from the charity Malaria No More UK said: “Today’s R21 vaccine results from Oxford’s renowned Jenner Institute are another encouraging signal that, with the right support, the world could end child deaths from malaria in our lifetimes.”