The first malaria vaccine to be approved by Oxford University has been approved in Ghana.
R21/Matrix M was proven to be as effective by 400 children from Burkina Faso in a September trial.
Malaria kills over 600,000 people every year. Most of these are children from Africa. The search for a cure has been ongoing for many decades.
One child dies every 75 seconds from the mosquito-borne illness in children under five years old, despite using insecticide sprays, preventative drugs, and bed nets.
After seeing the results of a larger, phase-three trial that involved 4,800 children from Burkina Faso and Mali, the Ghana Drug Authority has approved the vaccine.
These results will be published in a medical journal as soon as the World Health Organization completes its assessment.
If approved by the WHO, organizations such as Unicef or the vaccine alliance Gavi can fund millions of doses.
Professor Adrian Hill from Oxford, who is the head of R21 at the Jenner Institute, stated that Ghana had approved R21 for children ranging in age from five months to 36months – the highest-risk category.
The Serum Institute of India has also reached an agreement for 200 million annual doses.
Trials have shown that the vaccine can be administered as three doses, four weeks apart, and then as a booster one year later.
Professor Hill stated that the larger phase three trial also demonstrated “high levels of efficacy” and a “reassuring safety profile”. This result appears to have given Ghana the confidence in R21.
Prof Hill said that this is the first approval of a major vaccine in Africa.
He said that African regulators had been more proactive since COVID. They’ve been saying, “We don’t want the last in line,”
It is unknown when West African countries will start to roll out the vaccine.
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Although the WHO approved Mosquirix as the first malaria vaccine by GSK UK, its rollout was limited due to limited funding and commercial potential.
GSK has made promises to produce up to 15,000,000 doses annually until 2028. However, it is far below the 100 million doses that the WHO believes are necessary to reach 25 million children.
As part of the pilot program that began in 2019, around 1.2 million children from Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya have received at least one dose of Mosquirix.
The WHO states that all-cause infant mortality has dropped by 10% in the areas where it is administered.