In a measure considered “historic,” the World Health Organization approved the first vaccine against malaria, a disease that has plagued the world for centuries and still kills thousands every year. Consent could save the lives of tens of thousands of children in Africa. It took 30 years to develop the immunizing agent to reach positive results, and the organization now hopes that new products will reach the market, including against tuberculosis.
“This is a historic day in medicine and could open the door to controlling other diseases,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. Production will start in India, but the idea is that there will be a broad transfer of technology.
According to the World Health Organization, the disease kills 500,000 people every year, 95% of cases are in Africa. Half refers to children under 5 years old.
The new vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, has proven effective against the most prevalent malaria pathogen in Africa. Thus the vaccine becomes the first to deal with a parasitic disease and is recommended for the African region and other regions with the same infection rate of pathogens. The search for vaccines began nearly a century ago.
In clinical trials, vaccine efficacy was about 40% against malaria within the first 12 months and 30% reduced in severe malaria. But the rate drops to zero in the fourth year. However, studies show that the immunizing agent, if implemented, could save 23,000 children annually and prevent 5.3 million new cases.
The World Health Organization also estimates that it will have an economic impact, as the African continent loses $12 billion annually to the disease.
The World Health Organization described the approval of the vaccine as a “historic event”. “It is a huge leap from a scientific point of view to have a first-generation vaccine against a human parasite,” the organization declared.
The new vaccine, called Mosquirix, is given to children in four doses. The trials were conducted in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana, with more than 2.3 million doses given in those countries and covering 800,000 children.
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