Malaria vaccine clears first hurdle
Gets Go-Ahead From EU Regulators For Use In Africa; WHO To Examine Jab
London: British pharma company GlaxoSmithKline has announced that their vaccine Mos-quirix—the world's first vaccine against malaria, the most dreaded vector-borne disease in the world, which has taken 360 million to develop, has been recommended to be licensed for use in babies in Africa.
The European Medicines Agency has endorsed the drug and will now need the approval of health officials in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease affected 198 million people in 2013. Mosquirix, also part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will be examined by the World Health Organization. The vaccine could cost $5.
Speaking to TOI, GSK offi-cials here said, "The vaccine targets a particular type of malaria (plasmodium falciparum) which is found almost exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. It has not been shown to be efficacious against the plasmodium vivax malaria parasite, which is pre-dominant in Asia, thus it will not be a vaccine for India. However, we do have a treatment in development for the malaria vivax (tafenoquine which is in phase 3 development)."
GSK announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has adopted a positive scientific opinion for its malaria candidate vaccine also known as RTS,S, in children aged between 6 to 17 months. Following this decision, the WHO will now formulate a policy recommendation on use of the vaccine in national immunization programmes once approved by national regulatory authorities.
The final results had showed that vaccination with RTS,S, followed by a booster dose, adminis-tered 18 months after the primary schedule, reduced the number of cases of clinical malaria in children (aged 5-17 months at first vaccination) by 36% over an average follow-up of four years. This, however, was a fall in efficacy from the 50% protection against malaria which was seen in the first year after the vaccine was administered.
Malaria infects around 200 million people a year and killed an estimated 584,000 in 2013, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of five. Global health experts have long hoped scientists would be able to develop an effective malaria vaccine, and researchers at GSK have been working on RTS.S for 30 years.