By Jannelle Dang
On April 24, one day before World Malaria Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it received approval to test the first ever malaria vaccine in Africa starting next year.
According to CNN, the vaccine will be tested in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi, countries where malaria cases are the highest in Africa. Children aged five to 17 months old will receive the test vaccinations to allow the WHO to gauge whether the effects will protect individuals against malaria in real-life situations, as opposed to trials conducted in carefully monitored clinics.
The vaccine, RTS,S, was engineered specifically for children, who are most susceptible to the deadly symptoms of malaria. The Huffington Post reported that 430,000 lives are lost annually in Africa due to the disease, the majority being infants and young children.
Four dosages of the vaccine must be administered in order for it to take full effect on the patient. This presents a concern over whether or not impoverished continents can afford large quantities of the medicine to accommodate their citizens.
Nevertheless , scientists and the WHO remain optimistic about the results of piloting RTS,S.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, African regional director for the WHO, stated to the Huffington Post, “Combined with malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”
The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, a program of a non-profit health organization, reported that developments of the vaccine began in the early 1980s by a British pharmaceutical company called GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). After decades of trials and improvements, GSK was finally allowed to test its product on actual subjects in a non-controlled environment.
Although predictions of the success of the vaccine are being kept pragmatic, scientists, citizens of Africa, and the rest of the world are set on a promising path to reduced malaria infections and greater protection of human health.