#FirstMalariaVaccine; #Mosquirix; #Africa; #WHO, #PilotProject
Malawi (Africa), Nov 30 (Canadian-Media): The introduction of a first malaria vaccine, known as Mosquirix in Malawi, Africa was considered a landmark event in the battle against a disease that each year takes more than 400,000 lives, most of them children in Africa, Sciencemag.org reports said.
But keeping in mind the vaccine's cost-effectiveness and safety compared to its mediocre efficacy, the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to set up a pilot project in Malawi, Ghana, and Kenya in which the vaccine will be given to hundreds of thousands of children in a closely monitored vaccination campaign.
Mosquirix is being introduced only in selected areas in Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana. A decision about a broader rollout is expected in 2021. Image credit: THOKO CHIKONDI
It was believed that such a campaign would facilitate collection of more data to ensure the safety and efficacy of Mosquirix before wider introduction.
By September, almost 35,000 children in Malawi had received at least one shot. Getting the vaccine to these children has been straightforward, but collecting follow-up information is a challenge. "In trials, you have a controlled environment. You know where the participants are, keep track of them, if there is an issue you take care of them," says Bernhards Ogutu, a pediatrician and malaria researcher at the University of Nairobi who is involved in Kenya's vaccine pilot program. "But in the pilot, once you've given the child the vaccine, they go home."
To overcome the problem of monitoring the vaccinated children in Malawi, which lacked digital systems to record health and mortality statistics, researchers in Malawi set up a surveillance system in four "sentinel hospitals" that treat both vaccinated and unvaccinated children.
Mosquirix, developed in the 1980s by a team in Belgium at SmithKline-RIT, now part of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and its rollout now underway will help determine whether it should be introduced widely in Africa in the next decade.
But results of the pilot project varied and not promising enough, said molecular biologist Joe Cohen, who led the effort until he retired from GSK in 2012 that even a short-lived, partly effective vaccine "could already make a huge difference."
In April, WHO's vaccine advisory committee considered if the vaccine could be introduced in the rest of Africa—after just 2 years, instead of the five originally planned. "The evaluation will continue, but we don't want to keep the rest of Africa waiting any longer," says David Schellenberg, who joined the team at WHO in 2016. Another reason, Schellenberg says, to hasten the decision is that GSK needs to know whether it should continue production.
A declining number of meningitis cases and deaths in the three countries, requires more research to continue the pilot longer than expected to detect statistically significant differences.