Vaccines protecting children from malaria meet WHO's efficacy threshold

12 September 2022 | Muriel Cozier

‘…the world could end child deaths from malaria in our lifetimes.’

A malaria vaccine developed by researchers from the University of Oxford and their partners has been reported to prevent up to 80% of infections in a trial of 450 children aged between five and 17 months. The development has been welcomed, with Gareth Jenkins Director of Advocacy at Malaria No More UK saying ‘…the world could end child deaths from malaria in our lifetimes.’

Reporting the findings in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the Oxford researchers found that their candidate malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-MTM , had previously demonstrated high-level efficacy of 77% over a 12 month period after being given to young children in Nanoro, Burkina Faso during 2021. The latest development found that a booster dose at one year following a primary three dose regime, maintained high efficacy against malaria. The researchers noted that the vaccine met the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) specified 75% efficacy goal.

Halidou Tinto, Professor in Parasitology, Regional Director of IRSS in Nanoro, and the trial Principle Investigator said: ‘It is fantastic to see such high efficacy again after a single booster dose of vaccine. We are currently part of a very large phase III trial aimed at licensing this vaccine for widespread use next year.’ The trial has been extended for another two years to assess if further doses will be needed to maintain high efficacy over time.

The R21/Matrix-MTM malaria vaccine, created at the University of Oxford includes Novavax’ proprietary saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant and is licensed to Serum Institute of India.

Meanwhile GSK has said that its malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, has been awarded prequalification by the WHO. GSK said that this is the first prequalification for a malaria vaccine and ‘is an important step in rolling out the vaccine to children in countries with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.’

Thomas Breuer, Chief Global Health Officer GSK said: ‘So far, over 1 million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have had at least one dose of Mosquirix, donated by GSK, through the Malaria Vaccine implementation Programme, and WHO’s prequalification paves the way for more children to benefit from the vaccine.’

During 2021, WHO recommended broader use of GSK’s vaccine to reduce childhood illnesses and deaths from malaria in children living in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by the WHO. GSK said that it is working with partners to accelerate a product transfer for long-term antigen production, including technology transfer to Bharat Biotech of India. This partnership is expected to enable more efficient production of high volumes over time.

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