According to the World Health Organization, Malawi has become the first country to begin vaccinating children against malaria, using the only qualified vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease. Malaria is known to kill 435,000 people every year that makes the majority of children under 5 in Africa.
Immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare thousands from falling ill or even dying, even though the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized. A positive light at the end of the tunnel is that those who get the shots are expected to have less severe cases of malaria.
It took more than 30 years for GSK and their partners to cultivate the vaccine, at a cost of around $1 billion. Around 10 million vaccine doses are being donated by GSK in current vaccination initiatives. GSK is also planning to work with partners to secure funding for future vaccination programs on a broader level.
The vaccine is considered imperfect but it has good potential to save lives. Mosquirix, a development of GlaxoSmithKline, was certified by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. Deemed as a phenomenal moment, creating a vaccine for a parasite rather than a bacteria or virus is considered tough.
An earlier trial was dissatisfactory as the vaccine was only 30 percent effective in children who got four doses. The effects wore off though, and there were reported side effects like pain, fever, and convulsions, etc.
Parallel vaccination programs would originate in the coming weeks in Kenya and Ghana, which would aim to reach about 360,000 children per year across the three countries.
Bodies are growing resistant to medicines that treat the disease and the mosquitoes are growing resistant to insecticides with passing time. Funding for malaria has also become stagnant in recent times. Therefore, there is a demand for better tools to combat malaria.
Some were even worried that this vaccination shouldn’t divert the limited public fund for health from proven tools like best nets and insecticides to curb malaria. It might also be a challenge to convince parents to get their children for regular doses.
The development of the malaria vaccine is at the brink of saving lives and can kick-start some other research efforts to combat deadly diseases.