WHO recommends first malaria vaccine, developed in Belgium

The World Health Organisation WHO has recommended the use for children of a first effective malaria vaccine developed in Belgium.  The vaccine was developed by pharmaceuticals giant GSK at its Wavre plant.  The vaccine is the first to provide effective protection against killer disease malaria.

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes.  WHO figures show malaria killed 400,000 people in 2019 including 260,000 African children.

The vaccine is being marketed under the brand name Mosquirix.  It was OKed by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, but now intensive tests have been carried out in Kenia, Ghana and Malawi.  Since 2019 800,000 children have been immunised using 2.3 million doses of the vaccine.

Equipped with the results the WHO is now recommending use of the vaccine for all children in sub-Saharan Africa and other places where the disease is prevalent.

GSK has been developing the vaccine for three decades.  GSK’s Lode Schuerman, who is responsible for clinical studies into the vaccine, explains that it is the parasite that causes malaria that is far harder to tackle than a virus or a bacteria: “The minute a mosquito transmits the parasite to a human, the parasite quickly nestles in the liver where our immune system has a hard time beating it. We only possess half an hour in which to attack the parasite.  The minute the parasite reappears from the liver it has turned into a different organism that our immune system does not recognise.”

The vaccine is 30% effective.

“None of the tools that we possess today is sufficient, but in combination with preventative medicine the vaccine offers good results” says Dr Schuerman. 

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