A one-year study by researchers at Oxford University in Burkina Faso shows an effectiveness of up to 77 percent.
A potential new malaria vaccine has been shown to be extremely effective in a study on babies in Africa, suggesting that it may one day help reduce the death toll from the mosquito-borne disease, up to one per year half a million small children die.
The vaccine candidate called R21 / Matrix-M, developed by scientists from the University of Oxford in the UK, showed an efficacy of up to 77 percent in the one-year study with 450 children in Burkina Faso.
The scientists, led by Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute in Oxford and a leading researcher behind Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, said they are now planning to conduct end-stage studies in around 4,800 children between the ages five months and three years in four African countries.
“It’s more effective than anything that’s been reported before. The World Health Organization wanted a vaccine that was 75 percent effective. This is the first time anyone has exceeded this level. Really important, it can be made on a large scale. So far the vaccine looks safe, ”Hill told Al Jazeera.
According to Hill, the vaccine can be stored refrigerated and does not need to be frozen, which makes it easier to distribute in remote areas.
Scientists around the world have been working for decades to develop a vaccine against malaria – a complex infection caused by a parasite in the saliva of mosquitoes.
Malaria infects millions of people each year and kills more than 400,000 people – most of them babies and young children in the poorest parts of Africa.
The world’s first and only approved malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline in long-term clinical studies in several African countries, but is only partially effective at around 30 percent.
In the R21 / Matrix-M study in Burkina Faso, the 450 young children were divided into three groups.
Two groups received three doses of the experimental vaccine along with a low or high dose of an adjuvant – an ingredient designed to boost the body’s response to a vaccine – while the third group received a control vaccine.
The results, which the researchers said would soon be published in The Lancet Medical Journal, showed 77 percent effectiveness in the high-dose adjuvant group and 74 percent in those who received the vaccine with a low dose of the adjuvant.