In Africa, vaccines may revolutionize the fight against malaria.
More difficult than creating a vaccine to protect patients from COVID-19, finding an effective malaria vaccine has proven to be. Within a year of the disease’s onset, many new COVID-19 vaccines were created and given the go-ahead to be used.
In contrast, the first malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, was not approved for use by the World Health Organization (WHO) until 2021 after more than 30 years of intensive study and several clinical studies by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and collaborators.
It is extremely difficult to develop a vaccine for a vector-borne illness like malaria. In many hosts, the parasite assumes diverse shapes. Additionally, it is always changing to avoid the human immune system and regulate interventions.
The WHO granted the vaccine prequalification status in September 2022, marking a significant step toward the equitable roll-out of Mosquirix. The next phase is prequalification. It makes sure that large donors like the United Nations and other organizations only buy and deliver high-quality goods.
Most recently, scientists from Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and Burkina Faso made their own discovery. This is the same organization that created the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. They published some very positive results from a clinical trial evaluating the experimental R21 malaria vaccine.
The R21 vaccine targets the sporozoite, just like Mosquirix does. When a female Anopheles mosquito carrying the malaria parasite feeds on human blood, this is the stage of the parasite that is transmitted to humans. Both vaccines make sure that the sporozoites are eliminated before they reach the liver when they are effective. By stopping the parasite life cycle in the human host, it successfully prevents malaria infection.
With the addition of malaria vaccinations to the arsenal of preventative measures, the fight against malaria has been greatly boosted. One of the groups that is currently most impacted by malaria is children under the age of five. These vaccinations have the potential to minimize malaria-related sickness and death in this demographic.
Both vaccines, Mosquirix and R21, use the same malaria proteins and target the same parasite stage. The R21 vaccine from Oxford, however, has more of these malarial proteins. Additionally, it makes use of an alternative adjuvant, a chemical that boosts the immune system. These two elements are believed to boost the R21 vaccine’s effectiveness by stimulating a higher immunological response.
The initial statistics come from two-year research including 409 kids between the ages of five and 17 months. Twelve months after receiving the first three doses of the vaccine, the kids were given a booster dose. According to the findings, R21 produced a higher level of protection than Mosquirix.
In the target demographic of young African children, eight out of ten children who got four doses of the R21 vaccine did not contract malaria over the course of the study, making it the first malaria vaccine to achieve the WHO’s minimal efficacy target of 75% over 12 months.
The findings of this investigation are promising.
The effectiveness of the R21 and Mosquirix vaccinations, however, have not been directly compared by researchers, who have issued a warning. The R21 vaccine, in contrast to the Mosquirix shot, was administered to kids prior to the commencement of the malaria season. Additionally, it was only evaluated on a limited sample of kids from one Burkinabe region. There were also other controls and prevention strategies in place.
However, the WHO notes that this amount is far less than the anticipated demand for vaccines. The Jenner Institute is in contact with African vaccine producers to enhance manufacturing capacity.
A reduced rate of COVID-19 vaccination, particularly among youngsters, has been attributed to misinformation, vaccine reluctance, and safety concerns.