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WHO recommends 2nd children malaria vaccine

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By Abraham Adekunle

R21/Matrix-M will roll out in three African countries in early 2024.

Malaria is a life-threatening disease spread to humans by some types of mosquitoes and mostly found in tropical countries. The disease is responsible for a significant number of deaths per year especially in the African region. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated number of deaths caused by it stood at 619,000 in 2021. The African region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. According to the global agency the region accounted for 95 percent of cases and 96 percent of deaths worldwide.

Children under the age of five accounted for about 80 percent of all malaria deaths in the region. Infants, children under 5 years, pregnant women, travelers and people with HIV or AIDS are at higher risk of severe infection. However, scientists are working tirelessly to come up with lifesaving prevention and even a cure. Thus, the WHO has recommended a second malaria shot, a decision that could offer countries a cheaper and a more readily available option than the world’s first shot against the parasitic disease.

Agency reviewing the shot for pre-qualification.

Developed by Britain’s Oxford University, WHO said that R21/Matrix-M can be used to curb the life-threatening disease spread to humans by some mosquitoes. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the UN health agency was approving the new immunization based on the advice of two expert groups, recommending its use in children at risk of the disease. “As a malaria researcher, I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective shot against malaria. Now we have two,” Tedros said.

This vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and has already been approved for use in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria. It will be rolled out in those African countries in early 2024 and will be available in mid-2024 in other countries. Tedros added that doses would cost from $2 to $4. He said that WHO is now reviewing the jab for prequalification, which is the organization’s stamp of approval. It will enable GAVI (a global vaccine alliance) and UNICEF to buy the shots from manufacturers.

Nigeria had approved the vaccine months ago, awaiting donations.

Oxford University developed the new three-dose vaccine with help from the Serum Institute of India. Research has suggested it is more than 75 percent effective and protection is maintained for at least another year with a booster. However, neither of the vaccines available stop transmission, so immunization campaigns alone will not stop epidemics. Efforts to curb the disease are also being complicated by increasing reports of resistance to the main drugs used to treat the disease and the spread of invasive mosquito species.

Meanwhile, coming months after the Federal Government of Nigeria, through its National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), had announced that Nigeria awaits donations of hundreds of thousands of the newly approved R21 malaria injections. The agency granted a provisional approval for the shots on April 10, 2023, in line with WHO’s immunization implementation guideline. This makes Nigeria the second country to approve the new vaccination after Ghana. NAFDAC’s Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, had disclosed at a press briefing in Abuja that the agency is partnering with other government agencies to make the shots available to immunize the respective population. She said the country expects to get at least 100,000 doses.

Takeda’s vaccine also recommended for dengue.

In the same vein, Tedros said that the WHO had also recommended Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ vaccine against dengue for children aged 6 to 16 living in areas where the infection is a significant public health problem. Dengue, common in tropical and subtropical climates, is a viral infection spread from mosquitoes to people. Hanna Nohynek, chairwoman of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, told news correspondents that the vaccine, known as Qdenga, was shown in trials to be effective against all four serotypes of the virus in people who were previously infected with dengue.

Related Link

World Health Organization: Website

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