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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

New malaria vaccine is ‘world-changing’

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By James Gallagher

BBC health and science correspondent

A malaria vaccine with “world-changing” potential has been developed by scientists at the University of Oxford.

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The team expects it to be rolled out next year after trials showed up to 80% protection against the deadly disease.

Crucially, say the scientists, their vaccine is cheap and they already have a deal to manufacture more than 100 million doses a year.

The charity Malaria No More said recent progress meant children dying from malaria could end “in our lifetimes”.

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It has taken more than a century to develop effective vaccines as the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquitoes, is spectacularly complex and elusive. It is a constantly moving target, shifting forms inside the body, which make it hard to immunise against.

Last year, the World Health Organisation gave the historic go-ahead for the first vaccine – developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK – to be used in Africa.

However, the Oxford team claims their approach is more effective and can be manufactured on a far greater scale.

Trial results from 409 children in Nanoro, Burkina Faso, have been published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. It shows three initial doses followed by a booster a year later gives up to 80% protection.

The team will start the process of getting their vaccine approved in the next few weeks, but a final decision will hinge on the results of a larger trial of 4,800 children due before the end of the year.

The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer – the Serum Institute of India – is already lined up to make more than 100 million doses a year.

Prof Hill said the vaccine – called R21 – could be made for “a few dollars” and “we really could be looking at a very substantial reduction in that horrendous burden of malaria”.

He added: “We hope that this will be deployed and available and saving lives, certainly by the end of next year.”

Malaria has been one of the biggest scourges on humanity for millennia and mostly kills babies and infants. The disease still kills more than 400,000 people a year even after dramatic progress with bed nets, insecticides and drugs.

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