The World Health Organization approved the world’s first malaria vaccine at a historic moment. But why is disease so deadly and why is the sting needed so badly?
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Malaria has been brought under control in much of the world. But not in Africa.
Only now, with a new vaccine finally appearing, could the relentless plight of millions of people end.
The disease is caused by parasites carried by infected mosquitoes and has previously been treated with insecticidal bed nets and medication.
These methods have improved significantly as well the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that global cases fell 44 percent between 2010 and 2019.
Despite these efforts, 260,000 children in Africa died of the disease in 2019 alone. On average, it claims 400,000 lives every year.
Every seven seconds someone contracts it and every two minutes someone under the age of five succumbs.
Why is malaria so bad in Africa?
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While much of the world has the disease stuck in its rearview mirror, Africa remains a perfect storm for quick transmission. The CDC highlights some of the key factors in its ongoing struggle:
- It is home to a highly efficient type of mosquito that is responsible for high transmission rates
- The continent’s predominant species of parasite is the one most likely to cause severe malaria and death.
- Much of the continent’s weather allows year-round transmission.
- Scarcity of Resources and Socio-Economic Instability
According to the CDC, children and pregnant women are most susceptible to the disease because they either haven’t developed immunity or were eroded during pregnancy.
Hospital treatment for malaria patients can be very expensive, which means many families have to choose: take risk or get into poverty.
New malaria vaccine
But now, with a vaccine approved, the tide could finally change.
Efforts to make a vaccine have been going on for 100 years, and the news of the WHO-approved vaccine known as RTS, S, or Mosquirix could mark one of medicine’s biggest breakthroughs.
This particular vaccine has been in development for 40 years and is given in four doses over five months.
Now officially safe for human use, the vaccine has resulted in a 30 percent decrease in serious or fatal cases during studies New scientist reported.
Over a 12 month period, it has an efficacy of 56 percent – far from the high rates we have become accustomed to when developing the Covid-19 vaccine – yet represents a significant advance in the fight against the disease represent.
A study published in Plos medicine concluded that if 30 million doses of the vaccine were administered efficiently in selected African subregions, between 2.8 and 6.8 million cases could be prevented, saving the lives of 11,000 to 35,000 children.