Ghana has become the first nation to approve the avidly awaited malaria vaccine, which was developed at Oxford University, as they intensify their efforts to combat the disease transmitted by mosquitoes.
Researchers have described the R21/Matrix M vaccine as revolutionary. The initiative is one of many intended at combating the disease that annually claims the lives of over 600,000 people, the vast majority of whom are African children. The intricate structure and long life span of the malaria parasite have slowed the progress of vaccine development.
The World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed the first malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, developed by the British pharmaceutical conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline last year (GSK.L). However, a lack of funding and commercial potential has hindered the company’s ability to deliver the requisite quantity of doses. The Oxford vaccine, which has received regulatory approval for use in children aged 5 to 36 months who are at the greatest risk of dying from malaria, has a manufacturing advantage due to an agreement with Serum Institute of India to produce up to 200 million doses annually.
In September, a medical journal published interim data from the Oxford vaccine experiment involving more than 400 infants. At 12 months following the fourth dose, the vaccination efficacy was 80% in the group that received a higher dose of the immune-stimulating adjuvant, compared to 70% in the group that received a lower dose. Prior to the height of Burkina Faso’s malaria season, the doses were administered.
Adrian Hill, an Oxford scientist, remarked that this is the first time a significant vaccine has been approved first in an African nation. “Particularly since COVID, African regulators have taken a much more proactive posture, stating that we do not wish to be last in line.”