Oxford University scientists have developed a malaria vaccine with ‘world-changing’ potential, BBC News reported Wednesday, although receiving gunshots will require a renewed commitment to global health funding which advocates say is at risk of being cut.
“With the right support, the world could end child deaths from malaria in our lifetime.”
Adrian Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute and co-inventor of the R21 vaccine, described it as “the best vaccine yet” against malaria.
Malaria is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, affecting more than 240 million people and killing nearly 627,000 people in 2020. About 96% of malaria deaths occur in Africa and the vast majority of the victims are children under the age of five.
According The GuardianHill “has previously said he believes R21 could help reduce deaths from the disease by 70% by 2030 and eradicate it by 2040.”
As BBC News Noted:
It has taken more than a century to develop effective vaccines because the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquitoes, is spectacularly complex and elusive. It is a constantly moving target, changing shape inside the body, making it difficult to immunize against it.
Last year, the World Health Organization [WHO] gave the historic green light to the first vaccine – developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK – for use in Africa.
However, the Oxford team say their approach is more efficient and can be manufactured on a much larger scale.
Results of a randomized controlled trial involving 409 children aged 5-17 months in Nanoro, Burkina Faso — published Wednesday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases—showed that three initial doses of the R21 vaccine before the malaria season, followed by a booster dose one year later, provide protective efficacy of up to 80%.
Gareth Jenkins, advocacy director at Malaria No More UK, called the findings “an encouraging new signal that, with the right support, the world could end child deaths from malaria within our lifetimes”.
Oxford scientists will begin seeking WHO approval for the vaccine within weeks, although a final decision depends on the outcome of a larger, ongoing trial of 4,800 children in Kenya, Mali and in Tanzania. The results are expected before the end of this year.
The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is set to produce at least 200 million doses of R21 per year.
Given that the vaccine can be made for “a few dollars,” Hill said, “we could really be looking at a very substantial reduction in this horrible burden of malaria.”
“We hope this will be rolled out and available and save lives, certainly by the end of next year,” he added.
One of the final obstacles to effectively deploying the jab is the possible reduction in global healthcare spending. Hill implored the UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, not to waste the progress made by Oxford researchers and their counterparts at GSK by unnecessarily reducing public investment in science innovations.
“It would be tragic if suddenly, as new tools become available, and we can have a real impact – and it’s not hard to see now getting those [vaccines] there – if we were to just…turn off the funding taps,” Hill said. The Guardian Wednesday. “And there is a risk of that.”
As the newspaper reports:
The body that provides more than half of all funding for global malaria programmes, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has warned that unless it receives significantly more money from major donor countries such as the UK at its donors’ conference this month, it will not be able to revive the fight against these diseases after the Covid pandemic.
The UK has yet to announce what it will promise New York, but the fund is believed to have asked for around £1.8bn. [$2.1 billion]. As foreign minister, Truss outlined a foreign aid strategy marked by an overall reduction in spending and a withdrawal of funding from multilateral organizations like the Global Fund.
“It’s extremely important that the Global Fund is properly reimbursed. What they are doing is absolutely amazing,” Hill said. “I hope the new Prime Minister will be very keen to recognize the importance of doing what the UK [the fund’s third-biggest donor] has done so well in the past.”
Hill, who also co-created the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine that billionaire Bill Gates prevented from becoming a global public good as intended, is no stranger to the fact that medical triumphs alone are insufficient and that forces Political-economic factors play an outsized role in shaping health outcomes.
Humanity has made significant progress in the fight against malaria, eliminating the disease in many parts of the world over the past century and reducing its incidence in recent decades through technologies such as insecticide-treated bed nets .
However, recent research shows that malaria, dengue and other infectious disease outbreaks are poised to become more common in this century as the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency warms the planet and intensifies climate change. flooding, providing fertile ground for water and vectors. diseases carried.
This makes expanded production and equitable distribution of resources like the R21 vaccine all the more important in the future.
Jenkins, for his part, said not reducing the country’s contributions to the Global Fund “will be the new prime minister’s first test of foreign policy.”
“For the sake of the lives of millions of children, global health security and Britain’s relationship with its closest ally,” Jenkins said, “this is a test they cannot fail.”
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