World Malaria Day: How big is the problem? And Everything you need to know about the first vaccine

Malaria kills around 435,000 people around the world each year and the majority of them are children. In 2017, Children under the age of 5  accounted for 61%  of all malaria deaths worldwide.

According to the World Health Organisation, Malaria remains to be one of the world’s leading killers, claiming the life of one child every two minutes.

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasite. The parasite spreads with the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquito. Out of the 5 malaria-causing parasites, two P. falciparum and P. vivax – are most dangerous that are responsible for most of the malaria cases in humans.

 

How big is the problem?

Malaria kills around 435,000 people around the world each year and the majority of them are children. In 2017, Children under the age of 5  accounted for 61%  of all malaria deaths worldwide.

According to  World Malaria Report-2018, Fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa and India carried almost 80% of the global malaria burden.  Although there was a significant reduction in malaria cases in 2017 than in 2010 but it stalled in the period of 2015-2017 when no significant progress in global malaria reduction was made.

As per the data of National Vector Borne Disease Control programme in 2018, 399134 malaria cases were reported in the India.

 

What is the good news?

After decades of silence towards effective vaccination of the disease, WHO has announced the launch and pilot test of the world`s first malaria vaccine in Malawi (southeast African country). And this is the biggest health news break this year. The other two countries, Ghana and Kenya, will introduce the vaccine in the coming weeks.

The vaccine which is called RTS,S (trade name Mosquirix) is the first and up to the date the only vaccine that has demonstrated a significant reduction of malaria in children. It will be the first malaria vaccine provided to young children through national immunization programs in three sub-Saharan African countries—Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi.

The point to note here is that the vaccine has shown to provide partial protection against malaria. It will be used as a complimentary malaria control tool without replacing the existing WHO-recommended preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures.

 

What is the efficacy of the RTS, S vaccine?

The efficacy of the vaccine (nearly 40%)  is not high as compared to the vaccines for other diseases but the nations especially Africa which is the most affected continent and accounts for about 90% of all malarial death cannot wait for the perfect option.

 In clinical trials conducted over five years, the vaccine was found to prevent 4 in 10 malaria cases and 3 in 10 cases of  severe malaria.

 

Who developed the vaccine?

RTS, S was created in 1987 by scientists working in GSK laboratories. In early 2001, GSK and PATH—with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—entered into a partnership to develop the vaccine for infants and young children living in malaria-endemic regions in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Malaria immunization program is first being rolled out in Africa because African region bears the greatest burden of malaria worldwide. In 2017, the region was home to 93% of all malaria deaths globally mainly among young children. The vaccine was developed for use in Africa and for African children, additional studies will be done before recommending the vaccine outside Africa.

According to WHO, the vaccine offers no protection against P. vivax malaria, which predominates in many countries outside of Africa.


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