Nearly half of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of malaria. The disease kills around half a million people a year even after dramatic progress with prevention measures, drugs, and a vaccine that was released a couple of years ago. Now a new R21 vaccine developed by scientists at the University of Oxford has been approved for use in Burkina Faso after getting a green light in Ghana and Nigeria.
Malaria is the leading cause of infant mortality in Burkina Faso, and Health Minister Robert Kargougou says this new vaccine will be an extremely important tool in the effort to eliminate the disease.
Though the result of the trial involving 5,000 children has not been made public yet, government authorities and scientists believe it is safe and effective. Data from preliminary studies in Burkina Faso showed the R21 vaccine was up to 80% effective when given as three initial doses, and a booster a year later.
What makes the vaccine effective is that instead of creating antibodies, the vaccine creates cells which can kill off the parasite at the stage when it first enters the body.
The R21 vaccine will be available for children aged between five months and 36 months and each dose is likely to cost a couple of US dollars.
The Serum Institute of India can produce two million doses a year, and a factory is also to be built in Ghana which has already approved the use of the vaccine along with Nigeria.