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Episode #57 - Malaria vaccine

6 October 2021 | Science conversation

 

Summary

Learn about the first Malaria vaccine. Who should receive this vaccine? What are the challenges of rolling out a Malaria vaccine in the midst of a pandemic? Dr Pedro Alonso explains in Science in 5 this week.

Podcast

Transcript

Vismita Gupta Smith

Hello, and welcome to Science in 5, I'm Vismita Gupta Smith. We are talking today about the first ever malaria vaccine with Dr. Pedro Alonso. Welcome, Pedro. Talk to us please about the first malaria vaccine and its potential.

Dr Pedro Alonso

We are at the historical point in time. A first malaria vaccine is being recommended for broad scale use among African children to help prevent malaria in this in this group.

It is the first vaccine to reach this stage of a formal policy recommendation, and therefore this makes it a historical point in time. The vaccine contributes to our toolkit and therefore we will be used in combination with the other tools that we have, and the vaccine reaches this stage at the critical point in time in our fight against malaria. Malaria is probably the largest killer of humans, a long history.

We have seen amazing progress over the first 15 years of this century.

Unprecedented progress, which resulted in more than 7 million deaths, averted. More than 1.5 billion malaria cases averted. But the stark truth is that for the last 4 or 5 years we have seen this progress plateauing and plateauing at an unacceptably high level. We still have more than 200 million malaria cases in people living in malaria endemic countries every year.

We have more than 400.000 deaths due to malaria every year, and the brunt of the disease and death is carried by Africa and mostly by African children.

Vismita Gupta Smith

Pedro, which is the group that should receive this vaccine and talk to us about the safety of this vaccine.

Dr Pedro Alonso

This is a vaccine developed in Africa with very strong engagement of African scientists and aimed to prevent malaria disease and death among African children. The vaccine has now been used in over 800.000 children. As part of our pilot implementation programmes, it builds on previous work, phase three trial data that was also examined by a stringent regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency, that issued a positive recommendation on this vaccine. And we are reassured on the good safety profile of of this vaccine.

This is a safe and efficacious vaccine that can contribute to save lives, prevent disease.

Vismita Gupta Smith

Pedro, please speak to us about the challenges of rolling out this vaccine in the midst of a pandemic.

Dr Pedro Alonso

What we have found over the last 2,5  years of rolling out in pilot programs the malaria vaccine in three African countries is indeed that there is very strong demand. There is a very good acceptability by the populations and that even in the face of COVID-19, we reached very high levels of coverage within a short period of time. And that speaks of the fundamental value and acceptance of vaccines in general and of a malaria vaccine, particularly in Africa.

Moving forward, I believe that there are a number of steps that will still need to go through. The funding to secure the supply of these vaccines to African countries still needs to be worked out. But we are optimistic. We cannot imagine a situation where international solidarity will not generate the financial resources to allow this vaccine to reach those that need it.

And in the face of COVID-19, the resilience of health systems and particularly of vaccine delivery mechanisms also in Africa gives us hope that this vaccine will be able to get to those ultimate beneficiaries, young African children.

Vismita Gupta Smith

Thank you, Dr Pedro Alonso. That was Science in 5 today. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science. 

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