GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid have formed a partnership to test a new malaria vaccine for children.
The three organizations will provide a total of nearly $50 million to fund the first phase of pilot programs in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, with the goal of vaccinating about three hundred and sixty thousand children annually. Among other things, the pilots will evaluate the feasibility of administering the required four doses of RTS,S (RTS,S/AS01) — the world's first vaccine shown to provide partial protection against malaria in young children — in real-life settings, the vaccine's potential for reducing childhood deaths, and its safety for routine use.
Already under way in Malawi and to be launched soon in Ghana and Kenya, the programs will be implemented by the ministry of health in each country in coordination with the World Health Organization.
In clinical trials, the RTS,S vaccine was found to prevent about four in ten cases of malaria and three in ten cases of life-threatening severe malaria and to reduce severe malaria anemia, the most common factor in malaria-caused child deaths, by 60 percent. The vaccine is administered on a four-dose schedule, with the first dose given as soon as possible after five months of age, followed by second and third doses at monthly intervals, and the fourth dose administered between fifteen and eighteen months later. The vaccine is being evaluated as a complementary malaria control tool for existing WHO-recommended malaria prevention measures such as insecticide-treated bednets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and timely testing and treatment.
"Malaria is still one of the biggest killers of children worldwide, taking the lives of over two hundred thousand children every year," said GAVI chief executive Seth Berkley. "These pilots will be crucial to determine the part this vaccine could play in reducing the burden this disease continues to place on the world's poorest countries."
(Photo credit: Unitaid)