A malaria vaccine, the first of its kind, will be tested in three countries throughout Africa starting in 2018. Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi children will be first on the list to see if the RTS,S jab is at all effective.
According to BBC, over 750,000 children will take part in the study, with approximately half of them receiving the shot. The ages of these youths will range between 17 months and five years, with previous research proving that the malaria vaccine in question can prevent up to four in 10 potential cases. The way it works is this; over 21 months, four doses are administered. The first three take place once a month, and the fourth 18 months later. The issue, however, is just how well this treatment will pan out in the “real world,” as it were.
The Daily Mail has revealed that officials working for the World Health Organization (WHO), are concerned that the results of the study when it is actually executed in these countries may be quite different from those of the control group the malaria vaccine was first tested on. Their concern lies with the limited access to healthcare citizens in Africa are forced to deal with, as many of these nations are extremely poor and do not have anywhere near the same amount of funds as those used for the clinical trials which initially proved the jab’s effectiveness.
For this reason, reports The Times, the malaria vaccine is being tested in the three poorest African countries. As well as attempting to relieve those suffering from the disease, the pilots will continue to “assess the safety and effectiveness” of the shot. The first group of malaria affected individuals to receive the jab will be babies, as they are most vulnerable to further infection and ultimately death.
Researchers have faith in the fact that the malaria vaccine, if implemented safely and within due course, could save “tens of thousands of lives.” Africa’s WHO director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, has high hopes for the pilots, going on to say that information gathered during its implementation will “help [scientists] make decisions on the wider use of [RTS,S].”
As a result of the vaccine, severe cases are expected to be slashed by a third, and the number of children needing either blood transfusions or hospital treatment are also expected to decrease significantly. Each year, malaria kills 429,000 people. Although these statistics are still alarming, they have dropped 62 percent since the year 2000, due to the advancement in medical technology when it comes to vaccines.
By Lorelai Zelmerlow
Photo Courtesy WHO