The launch of a malaria vaccine pilot program in three African nations has been welcomed as an important milestone by Burnet Institute Head of Malaria Research, Professor James Beeson.
The vaccine, known as RTS,S will be made available to children aged up to two years in Malawi, Ghana and Kenya.
“This is important because we don’t have a vaccine at the moment that we can roll out across populations affected by malaria, particularly targeting children,” Professor Beeson told ABC Television’s News Channel.
“Malaria mainly affects young children, and most of the burden is in African countries, and around half the world’s population is at risk.
“So we really urgently need a vaccine that can be used in mass-vaccination programs to really hammer down malaria and ultimately eliminate malaria from as many countries as possible.”
The World Health Organization and funding partners have set an effectiveness threshold of 75 percent for their goal of a licensed malaria vaccine by 2030.
Professor Beeson expects the pilot program to shed new light on the vaccine’s effectiveness; it’s safety, and the best way to roll it out.
“I think it’s fair to say that all indicators are so far that the vaccine is safe and this is really part of that final process,” he said.
“This vaccine is a really important first step, but we see this really as the first generation and we need to work towards a next-generation vaccine that will be even more protective.”
Malaria kills more than 453,000 people globally each year, including more than 250,000 children in Africa.
Find out more about Burnet Institute research into the workings of the RTS,S vaccine.
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