Get the Latest News Updates

New malaria vaccine results raise hopes of mass rollout

Oxford’s R21/Matrix-M vaccine meanwhile was found to be 77 percent effective at preventing malaria.
A booster dose of a new malaria vaccine maintains a high level of protection against the disease, researchers said Thursday, expressing hopes the cheap jab could be produced on a massive scale in a matter of years.
The international research team suggested the vaccine, developed by Britain’s Oxford University, could represent a turning point in the fight against the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, which killed 627,000 people — mostly African children — in 2020 alone.
Last year a different vaccine produced by British pharmaceutical giant GSK became the first to be recommended for widespread use against malaria by the World Health Organization, and has now been administered to more than a million children in Africa.
However research has found that the effectiveness of GSK’s vaccine is around 60 percent, and significantly wanes over time even with a booster dose.
Oxford’s R21/Matrix-M vaccine meanwhile was found to be 77 percent effective at preventing malaria in research published last year — the first time the WHO’s roadmap goal of 75 percent had been met.
For the research, 450 children aged five to 17 months in Burkina Faso — where malaria accounts for around 22 percent of all deaths — were given three doses in 2019.
They were split into three groups, two receiving different doses of the Matrix-M adjuvant, a vaccine ingredient patented by Novavax also used in the US biotech firm’s Covid jab. The third control group received a rabies vaccine.
Ahead of the 2020 rainy season – when malaria cases surge – 409 children returned to get a booster shot.
For the group that received the higher dose of adjuvant, the booster rose the protection level to 80 percent, according to the results of a phase 2b trial published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Thursday. The lower dose had 70 percent efficacy.
And crucially, the booster returned antibody levels to a similar level seen after the first round of doses, the study said.
The study’s lead investigator Halidou Tinto of the Burkina Faso health research institute IRSS said, “It is fantastic to see such high efficacy again after a single booster dose.”
Tinto, who was involved in trialling both malaria vaccines, said GSK’s vaccine had an optimal efficacy of around 60 percent. “So I can confirm that R21 is doing much better,” he told a press conference.