First Malaria Vaccine Expected to be Approved by European Regulators
By admin July 23, 2015

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Millions of children could benefit if European regulators recommend the first malaria vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline. The shot is called RTS, S, or Mosquirix and backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It has shown success in protecting young children from Malaria for up to four years. It nearly halved the cases of malaria experienced by children aged between five and seven months old. Approximately 500,000 children under the age of five die from malaria every year, mostly in Africa.

The European Medicines Agency met in London to decide whether to recommend the vaccines, which has taken 30 years to develop and cost $565 million so far. An opinion will be announced Friday and a review has taken place over the last year.

If it is approved, the World Health Organization will see how to use it alongside other tools. GlaxoSmithKline will have to apply for review by the WHO and this information will be used by the UN to help make vaccine-purchasing decisions. Reuters believes that the vaccine would cost approximately $5, which is about the same as an insecticide-treated bed net. Andrew Witty, chief executive of GSK stated, “while we have seen some decline in vaccine efficacy over time, the sheer number of children affected by malaria means that the number of cases of the disease the vaccine can help prevent is impressive.”

The vaccine was developed in labs in Belgium in partnership with the international non-profit organization Path’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative. Research started in the 1980s and is ahead of other malaria vaccines by about 10 years. It specifically targets the malaria disease found in sub-Saharan Africa. It was tested in 11 sites in seven countries and conducted to the highest international standards. One drawback is that the vaccine is more effective for children five months and over, therefore it can’t be added to the routine vaccine schedule. Also, its effect diminishes over time, therefore needs a booster shot. The vaccine has been described as “imperfect” by Brian Greenwood, a professor of clinical tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine, although it is a breakthrough.

The complexity of the malaria parasite makes development of a malaria vaccine a very difficult task. Given this, there is currently no commercially available malaria vaccine, despite many decades of intense research and development effort. The current malaria vaccine candidate has gone through trials, will submit their review in October and then purchasing decisions will be made. There were 198 million cases in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, so even an « imperfect » vaccine could still prevent millions of cases.



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