About 360,000 children per year in three African countries should receive a powerful malaria drug as part of a pilot project to reduce the spread of lethal disease.
Malawi on Tuesday is the first country to start using the comaric vaccine as part of routine childhood immunization programs. Ghana and Kenya are expected to launch massive vaccinations next week.
Mosquirix, the commercial name of RTS, S, triggers the immune system to defend itself against the first stages of the infectious disease shortly after the malarial parasite enters the bloodstream through a mosquito bite.
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Manufactured by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), mosquitoes have been evaluated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after past scientific tests.
The total investment in the pilot scheme amounted to nearly $ 1 billion ($ 0.88 billion) and GSK donated millions of doses of the drug.
Years of testing
"This is a historic moment," World Health Organization (WHO) Director of Malaria Pedro Alonso said, welcoming three decades of research and development that led to vaccine testing.
The pilot project, which will last until 2022, is followed by the resurgence of the global malaria case – about 219 million in 2017 – by 2 million more than the previous year. About 435,000 people die of the disease, mostly in Africa, and most of them children under the age of five. However, since 2000, the number of deaths has dropped by nearly two-thirds.
The pilot project will target 360,000 children annually in Malawi, Gansi and Kenya
Malaria is transmitted by the female mosquito Anopheles, which is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa. In severe cases, the illness can cause seizures, coma, or death. Children are particularly vulnerable and about 250,000 young people die each year from the disease.
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"Malaria can kill a child in less than 24 hours," said the scientist Tisungane Mvalo. "This is the main cause of illness and death among children aged 5 and under in Malawi," he wrote on Twitter before the start of the trial.
Mary Hamel, coordinator of the World Health Organization's Malaria Vaccination Program, said the vaccine "has the potential to save the lives of tens of thousands of children."
Repeat the necessary vaccinations
Deployment may be difficult because children should receive four injections. The first three are about five to nine months, and the fourth is two years. Because vaccines do not always coincide with other vaccinations, health workers will face extra pressure to ensure that parents bring their children to the four appointments.
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In the most comprehensive clinical study so far, involving about 15,000 babies, the vaccine has prevented approximately 40% of malaria infections and about 30% of severe cases.
Experts from Heath admit that marsirix is only one of several possible treatments in the fight against the disease.
However, critics are skeptical about whether the vaccine can meet expectations. It only works against the most common and dangerous pathogen "Plasmodium falciparum", while malaria parasites can carry five different so-called " Plasmodium.
mm / aw (DPA, KNA, AFP)
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