A new malaria vaccine, the R21/Matrix-M, has been approved for use in Ghana and conditionally approved for use in Nigeria. It is aimed at saving children aged five to 36 months from malaria.
The R21 vaccine, which requires three doses plus a booster, is intended for use in infants and young children. Its Phase 3 trial is still ongoing, but its Phase 2B trial exceeded the World Health Organization’s target of 75 per cent efficacy.
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A step in the right direction
WHO estimates that more than 600,000 people die from malaria each year, with most deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana, malaria is responsible for more than 12,000 deaths each year alone.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the approval of the R21 vaccine is a “huge deal” and a “massive step in the right direction,” but noted that the study data needs to be considered with context.
It remains to be seen how the vaccine will work in real-world settings, and it’s premature to celebrate.
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Aboagye-Antwi stressed the importance of community engagement when it comes to deploying the vaccine, and said it’s just one more tool “towards achieving the goal of elimination” of the disease.
Hill says the R21 vaccine’s approval is the culmination of decades of work, but it doesn’t invalidate existing anti-malaria efforts.