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Malaria Vaccine Could Transform Africa


Britain’s largest pharmaceutical company believes it will have an effective vaccine for malaria as early as 2015. London-based GlaxoSmithKline has published the results of the most recent trials on its vaccine, RTS,S. The results show that the treatment nearly halved the number of cases of malaria experienced by young children. The Guardian:

The dossier will go to the European Medical Agency next year and if it gets its licence, will go to the World Health Organisation for approval. It is expected that the donor-funded GAVI – the Global Alliance forVaccines and Immunisation – will eventually pick up the bill for vaccine programmes as the treatment is deployed in malarial countries. Because the vaccine appears to be more effective in infants from five months of age, it may not be given at the same time as the basic immunisation for babies, such as diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, but later, like measles and pneumococcal vaccine. The introduction of a booster jab, at 18 months, is now also being trialled to see if it can increase the duration of the vaccine’s protection.

The treatment was developed with the US-based non-profit PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. David Kaslow, vice president, product development at PATH, said the limited efficacy of the vaccine must be put in context. There has been great progress with bed nets and other technical measures, “yet there is still a huge disease burden out there”, he said. In that context, the vaccine has “a potentially significant public health impact”. During the trials, he pointed out, there were 941 cases of malaria averted for every 1,000 children vaccinated.

Malaria is one of the biggest killers in low-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, roughly 660,000 people die from malaria each year, with the majority of these deaths being African children. Malaria is a contagious disease, too, so even a few vaccinations would reduce the chances of other children catching the disease, whether vaccinated or not. An effective vaccine has enormous potential to save lives and improve basic conditions in this part of the world.

[Malaria test image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    “Malaria is a contagious disease …. ”

    No, technically it is not. Malaria is not spread by person-to-person contact like the flu. … or, say, AIDS.

    Anopheles mosquitoes (females) can transmit malaria, but they must have first been infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected person. Is that want you mean by “contagious?”

    • Dr. Wilhelm Ropke

      I think the point is that for each prevention, everyone else is less likely to contract malaria – ceteris paribus.

      • Pete

        Yes, I think that those in the business refer to it as “herd immunity.”

  • bigfire

    Waiting for the NGO decrying GlaxoSmithKline as greedy capitalist bastards for wanting to sell this cure instead of giving it away.

  • NCMountainGirl

    This is wonderful news. Too bad so many poor Africans had to suffer for so long because of the western elite’s hysteria about DDT.

    • Corlyss

      Amen. It’s amusing, sort of, to see how it was okay for Africans and other malaria-prone zones to be sacrificed to save the bald eagles that suddenly are de minimis collateral damage when it comes to wind farms.

  • Alexander Scipio

    OK. Then what? Africa has tens of millions more people than it can feed. (Let alone govern effectively or protect from Islam.)

    So now we’ll end the major population control program in Africa. Great. Then what? More education in a culture that doesn’t value it? More people to feed than they can? More deforestation for slash & burn, adding thousands of tons of CO2? More piracy off the coast? More millions murdered for Islam?

    Seriously – has ANYONE thought this through? Anyone? Is the plan just to have the UN yammer about MORE redistribution to lower our standard of living to raise theirs: global communism?

    These actions are NOT without consequences.

    • TheRadicalModerate

      Disease is a huge drag on a nation’s productivity. Healthy people produce stuff. Sick people consume stuff. There’s a fairly compelling school of thought that posits that a disease-free Africa finally starts a virtuous cycle that leads to self-sufficient economies that actually grow. There’s a fair amount of evidence that this is already happening in some places.

    • Corlyss

      “Africa has tens of millions more people than it can feed.”
      What difference does it make where the food comes from? They can buy it from America or Canada.

  • TheRadicalModerate

    If this pans out, the inventor will go down as one of the greatest humanitarians of all time, right up there with Norman Borlaug. (If you don’t know who that is, off to wikipedia with you!)

    Of course, on the flip side, we have one of the greatest mass murderers of all time: Rachel Carson. Silent Spring led to the the banning of DDT all over the world, condemning millions of children a year to death by malaria.

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