Published: 07th October 2021
What the FAQ: Thirty years in making, the world now has a Malaria vaccine. What do we know so far?
The health organisation has warned of not letting the guards down. It has advised countries to step away from a “one-size fits all” approach and use a blend of tools instead
Malaria has been killing people for a long time now — the disease killed nearly 40,90,00 in the year 2019. But there is hope. After thirty years in making the World Health Organization on October 6 endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine, the first against this brutal disease that is most fatal to children aged under 5. The African Region has been carrying a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden with 94 per cent malaria cases and deaths.
What is the new vaccine all about?
The RTS,S/AS01, known as Mosquirix, is developed by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Beecham. This is the first and the only vaccine against Malaria, making it a milestone in medical science. It has stood tall in the test of clinical trials and received a positive scientific opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
How will it save us from malaria?
In 2019, India had an estimated 5.6 million cases of malaria compared to about 20 million cases in 2000, according to WHO. The good thing is that malaria is endemic in India but the country has reported a significant drop in numbers in recent years. As per its recommendations, for good malaria control, the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine needs to be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission of the disease, as defined.
When will the vaccine be available to us?
WHO is recommending “widespread use of the RTS,S /AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission”, it said in a statement. However, It is unclear as of now as to when the vaccine would be introduced in India. The Indian government would have to approve its use on the Indian population.
Is this the end then? WHO says no.
The health organisation has warned of not letting the guards down. It has advised countries to step away from a “one-size fits all” approach and use a blend of tools which are tailored to local contexts for maximum benefit. A malaria vaccine is a breakthrough addition to the malaria-fight toolkit. It can help get malaria control back on track, the WHO has said.