An archaic, yet devastating infectious disease may now become more easily prevented as the World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed the world’s first vaccine against Malaria; the first step towards worldwide distribution.
Though well-off nations are rarely troubled by the disease, other countries, particularly Africa, see hundreds of thousands of deaths due to Malaria, on a yearly basis.
Almost half a million, around 260,000 of which are children under the age of five, die from Malaria annually, as the illness is quickly transmitted through the female Anopheles mosquito’s bite, which can reinfect people multiple times, severely damaging their immune system.
This mortality rate may now be significantly reduced, however, thanks to GlaxoSmithKline’s newly developed vaccine, Mosquirix, which is capable of strengthening the immune system against the deadliest Malaria pathogen known as Plasmodium falciparum.
Clinical trials showed an overall efficacy of 50% at preventing severe cases of Malaria during its first year, though this protection rate did drop to nearly zero by the fourth.
Wealthier nations have debated the importance of the vaccine due to the moderate level of protection offered, as other issues take center stage for them.
However, models projecting the impact of the Malaria vaccine distribution reaching the most impacted nations indicated that more than five million cases along with the deaths of 23,000 children below 5, could be prevented every year.
Furthermore, recent trials involving the vaccine’s use in tandem with preventive medication proved to be even more effective at preventing the deadly disease.
“Progress against malaria has really stalled over the last five or six years, particularly in some of the hardest-hit countries in the world…[with the vaccine] there’s potential for very, very significant impact there,” Ashley Birkett, head of the Malaria programs of global health nonprofit PATH, stated.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health’s National Malaria Control and Elimination Program (DOH-NMCEP) has stated that more than half of the nation’s provinces have declared a Malaria-free status, as cases have been on a sharp decline for the past years.