Wednesday 29 March 2017

World's first malaria vaccine to help 'African communities that need it most'

The latest WHO figures show there were about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 and an estimated 584,000 deaths. Photo: AP
The latest WHO figures show there were about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 and an estimated 584,000 deaths. Photo: AP

Sally Wardle

The world's first malaria vaccine is to be considered for use in national immunisation programmes after being given the scientific seal of approval.

The medication, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has been awarded "positive scientific opinion" by the European Medicines Agency, passing tests for safety and effectiveness. The vaccination, known as RTS,S, has been approved for children aged six weeks to 17 months.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will now produce guidance on use of the vaccine in immunisation programmes once it is passed by national regulatory authorities.

GSK chief executive Andrew Witty said: "Today's scientific opinion represents a further important step towards making available for young children the world's first malaria vaccine.

"While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides, would provide a meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most."

Tests of the vaccination found that over the first 18 months, following three doses of RTS,S, malaria cases were reduced by almost half in children aged 15-17 months at the time of their first vaccination, and by 27pc in children aged 6-12 weeks.

GSK has said it will not make profit from the vaccine, but has not yet confirmed its cost.

The latest WHO figures show there were about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 and an estimated 584,000 deaths.

Irish Independent

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