WHO Touts New Malaria Vaccine as ‘Historic’ — Is It Worth an Investment?
A new vaccine has surfaced to help prevent malaria, one of the oldest known and deadliest infectious diseases carried by mosquitos. According to The New York Times, it could save tens of thousands of children each year. This comes on the heels of a potential oral antiviral pill to fight the effects of COVID-19 from Merck seeking FDA approval just last week.
The new vaccine is made by GlaxoSmithKline, a research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare company. Their vaccine has been engineered to fight Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest of five malaria pathogens and the most widespread in Africa, The New York Times reported. Malaria kills about half a million people each year — including 260,000 children under the age of five.
Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program, said that having a malaria vaccine that is safe, moderately effective and ready for distribution in sub-Saharan Africa is “a historic event.” The WHO endorsed the vaccine on Wednesday.
The new vaccine, called Mosquirix, is one of several vaccines that have been developed over hundreds of years to fight the parasitic disease, according to The New York Times. During clinical trials, the new vaccine had an efficacy of about 50% against severe malaria in the first year, but dropped close to zero by the fourth year.
Because the trials did not measure impact on deaths, The New York Times noted that some experts question whether it is a worthy investment. However, a modeling study conducted last year estimated that if the vaccine was rolled out to countries with the highest infection rates, it could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in children younger than five each year.
According to The New York Times, the next step is for Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, to determine whether the vaccine is a worthwhile investment. Although not guaranteed, board approval means Gavi would purchase the vaccine for countries upon request. This is expected to take at least a year.
GlaxoSmithKline shares are up 5.22% year-to-date.
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Last updated: October 7, 2021