It is heartening to see progress in the fight against malaria. Over the past thirty years and with hundreds of millions of dollars invested thus far, the RTS,S malaria vaccine was officially rolled out yesterday in Malawi. In 2017, I wrote about the vaccine trials that began in 2009 and the announcement of the three countries that had been chosen for the vaccine rollout: Kenya, Malawi, and Ghana. In clinical trials, the vaccine was found to prevent approximately 4 in 10 malaria cases, including 3 in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. Now two years later the vaccine is officially in use to curb the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of African children under the age of five. The Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program will continue through 2022.
Today is World Malaria Day. This year’s theme: End Malaria for Good.
While 6.8 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 – 2015, there are still 3.2 billion people who are susceptible to contracting the disease every day and a half million children die from malaria every year. There is a long way to go to save more lives especially for children under the age of five in sub-Saharan African where most deaths occur.
How Can You Help?
- Donate to Malaria No More to help them eradicate malaria by 2040.
- Learn the facts about malaria below in the CDC’s latest infographic and see why it needs to be eradicated.
- Read more about the world’s first malaria vaccine trials (announced yesterday) in Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi that are slated to begin in 2018.
Photo: GAVI/Doune Porter/PATH/2012
For decades, there has been consistent chatter, research, and hope for a potential malaria vaccine. Now, all three are finally coming to fruition to roll out the world’s first clinical malaria vaccine trials. The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) announced today that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been chosen for the WHO-coordinated pilot implementation program that will make the world’s first malaria vaccine available in 2018.
“The prospect of a malaria vaccine is great news. Information gathered in the pilot will help us make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement. “Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa,” she added.
Sub-Saharan Africa records 90% of all global malaria cases. Even though the number of cases and deaths have dropped dramatically since 2001, the rate is still astronomically high. In fact, malaria still remains one of the deadliest killers on the African continent, especially for children under the age of five.
To date, the most effective way to curb malaria cases is via the use of bed nets and indoor residual spraying. Unfortunately, 43% of sub-Saharan Africans are not protected against either and 429,000 people died from malaria in 2015. After spending time with mothers in Tanzania with Malaria No More, I saw this to be true. I met moms standing in long lines to receive new nets, but the ones they had used for years had holes throughout, rendering them virtually worthless.
There is now new hope to curb child deaths with the injectible malaria vaccine targeted to children within five to 17 months called RTS,S. The vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline. Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana were chosen for the following reasons according to the World Health Organization:
- high coverage of long-lasting insecticidal treated nets (LLINs)
- well-functioning malaria and immunization programs
- a high malaria burden even after scale-up of LLINs,
- and participation in the Phase III RTS,S malaria vaccine trial
The countries themselves will determine the areas in their country where the trials will ultimately take place. The $49.2 million cost of the trials will be taken up by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID. The World Health Organization and GlaxoSmithKline will additionally provide complimentary funds for the malaria trial efforts.
Photo: UN Photo/Marie Frechon
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden of malaria sickness and death. In fact, 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa according to the World Health Organization. Children under the age of five are particularly susceptible of dying from malaria and adults can be completely debilitated by the infectious disease as it zaps their energy little by little for weeks. It is important, then, that those who live in malaria prone areas have the medicinal options needed to fight off the disease.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and New York University business schools have written a recent paper showing that more donor funding from U.S. multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as from foundations like the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are critical to keeping the price of malaria drugs low for poor people to afford. Buying these Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs) is literally a matter between life and death.
Since 2001 malaria deaths have fallen by 4.3 million. This is due in part because of a concerted scale-up of malaria prevention and control efforts, especially across sub-Saharan Africa. Increased funding has made this scale-up and global malaria prevention partnerships possible, and yet the funding falls short of the estimated $5.1 billion annually needed to eradicate malaria worldwide.
The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) was signed by George W. Bush in 2005. Upon its official launch in 2006, the primary goal of the Initiative was to reduce malaria deaths by 50 percent across 15 hard-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa where over 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur. Since then, major milestones have been reached. Malaria mortality decreased by 54 percent in the World Health Organization Africa region and also by 58 percent among children under the age of five. This is significant because malaria remains one of the three largest killers of children globally. Malaria prevention funding also rose from $30 million in 2006 to $669 million by 2015. Insecticide treated bednets also rose from 29 percent to 55 percent.