By Winfridah Mutheee
Covid-19 has made the entire World painfully aware of the terrible power that viruses can wield.
Unlike coronavirus vaccines that have been developed and deployed in record time, Malaria vaccine has been in trial for quite a while now and has taken longer to come to fruition.
As we commemorated World Malaria day yesterday 25 April 2021,to draw attention to the devastating impact of this disease on families,communities and even the world,we are grateful to note that there is a silver lining after a new research has shown that an effective vaccine against malaria could be closer than we thought.
At least this time round the malaria vaccine has shown a high efficacy in trials preventing the disease 77% of the time among those receiving it, quite a milestone, considering WHO’s target efficacy for malaria vaccines that is 75% and above.
Malaria is not caused by a virus or bacteria. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through mosquito bites. Although preventable and curable, the World Health Organization estimates there were 229 million cases worldwide in 2019 and over 400,000 deaths.
It poses a huge threat especially to young African children under the age of 5 years.
Children in sub-Saharan Africa are mostly affected.
A lot of money is spent each year on insecticide spraying,bed nets and antimalarial drugs.
World Health Organization targets a 90% reduction in deaths by the year 2030.
Progress on malaria vaccine development is quite promising according to a new report from a multi-national group of researchers,published in the Lancet.
A phase 3 trial to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in a much larger number of people is set to start in four African countries in 2021, aiming for accelerated approvals if successful.
Due to a surge in Covid-19 in African countries, it may lead to drawbacks for the R21 vaccine phase 3 trials that are yet to start in Kenya,Tanzania,Mali and Burkina Faso.
4,800 children below three years will be enrolled for the phase 3 trials where the children in the trial will be given four doses of the vaccine with the results expected to be ready in a year.
Oxford University and India’s Serum Institute are the developers of the malaria vaccine.
Many vaccines have been tried over the years yet this is the first to meet the required target by WHO.
A malaria vaccine may have taken longer to come to fruition due to the fact that a very high immune response is needed to fight off the disease
In the capital city of Nairobi, fewer than 1% of people harbor the parasite that causes malaria according to World Health Organization.
Preventive measures, tailored to meet the needs of the Kenyan population has translated to a major progress.
If untreated, malaria can progress quickly to severe illness and even death.
Malaria is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Africa.
In Kenya, there are an estimated 3.5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths each year.
In endemic areas, malaria transmission is intense throughout the year, with high entomological inoculation rates and prevalence greater than 20 percent near Lake Victoria and between 5–20 percent in coastal areas.
If approved the vaccine will be a turning point and deaths caused by malaria will be a thing of the past.