A malaria vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford has shown its strong protection can hold up for up to a year after a booster shot, bolstering the case for a second vaccine to be used to protect people. children and infants in Africa against the deadly disease.
The vaccine, known as R21, has been shown to be up to 80% effective one year after a fourth dose was given to some 400 infants aged 5-17 months in a circulating region of Africa. seasonal illness, according to a study published Wednesday by the peer-reviewed medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The vaccine, which uses an ingredient called an adjuvant to boost the immune response, had previously been shown to be 77% effective against malaria after three primary doses, given four weeks apart.
This made it the first malaria vaccine to achieve the level of efficacy of no less than 75% set by the World Health Organization against malaria. The WHO also aims to approve vaccines capable of maintaining protection at this level for at least two years by the end of the decade.
The researchers hope to get the vaccine approved in 2023 and are now testing it in a late-stage clinical trial involving 4,800 people in several countries in East and West Africa.
They are also looking to see if an additional booster may be needed to maintain protection. The vaccine is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. The institute also manufactured the Covid-19 vaccine co-developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc.
The malaria vaccine news comes just after the WHO officially approved the world’s first vaccine against the disease, developed by GSK and its partners, earlier this week.
The so-called WHO prequalification is a validation of the safety and efficacy of GSK’s Mosquirix vaccine and will allow for purchase from countries and international organizations to control the spread of malaria.
The GSK vaccine, given in four doses, was found to be only nearly 40% effective against malaria in the same age group after a four-year follow-up. These were advanced multi-country, multi-setting studies involving tens of thousands of children. GSK’s malaria vaccine has shown levels of efficacy as high as 70% in an independent study similar to the Oxford vaccine trial.
The injection, along with other measures, could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Malaria has been a tricky target for vaccine makers, but researchers are making progress. The parasites that cause the deadly disease are subject to mutations that allow them to develop resistance to some existing treatments. BioNTech SE, which developed the highly potent mRNA Covid vaccine in partnership with Pfizer Inc, is also working on a malaria vaccine candidate.
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