Experts warn that the authorization of a second malaria vaccine by the UN is insufficient to halt the spread of the disease

On Monday, the World Health Organization made a significant announcement regarding the authorization of a second malaria vaccine.

This decision could potentially offer countries a more affordable and accessible option than the first shot available for the parasitic disease.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed that the approval of the new malaria vaccine was based on the advice of two expert groups who recommended its usage in children who are at risk of the disease.

As a malaria researcher, Tedros expressed his excitement about the approval of this new vaccine, stating that he used to dream of the day when a safe and effective vaccine against malaria would become a reality. With the approval of two vaccines, his dream has now become a reality.

The development of the new three-dose vaccine by Oxford University, in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India, marks a significant milestone in the ongoing battle against the global pandemic.

Extensive research conducted on this vaccine has indicated that it is highly effective, with an efficacy rate exceeding 75%.

Moreover, the protection offered by this vaccine is expected to be sustained for at least an additional year, provided individuals receive a booster dose.

These findings have instilled a sense of hope and optimism in the global community, as the prospect of long-lasting immunity becomes increasingly tangible.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has lauded this breakthrough, emphasizing its potential to curb the spread of the virus and save countless lives.

Furthermore, Tedros has highlighted the affordability of this vaccine, stating that it would be available at a remarkably low cost of approximately $2 to $4 per dose.

This accessibility, coupled with its effectiveness, makes it a promising candidate for widespread distribution in the near future.

However, the availability of the vaccine hinges upon the agreement of funders to purchase it, and if these negotiations prove successful, it could be made available in select countries as early as next year.

This potential timeline underscores the urgency and importance of securing the necessary funding to expedite the production and distribution of this life-saving vaccine.

As the world eagerly awaits the outcome of these discussions, the prospect of a more effective and accessible vaccine offers a glimmer of hope in the midst of these challenging times.

Earlier this year, the regulatory authorities in Ghana and Burkina Faso granted their approval for the malaria vaccine, marking a significant milestone in the fight against this debilitating disease.

However, it is important to note that this vaccine should not be seen as a standalone solution, but rather as an additional tool to complement existing preventive measures such as bed nets and insecticide spraying.

John Johnson, a representative of Doctors Without Borders, emphasized the importance of recognizing the limitations of this vaccine, stating that it is not the ultimate solution to eradicate malaria.

It is worth mentioning that Johnson was not involved in the World Health Organization’s expert group that granted the Oxford vaccine its approval.

In a groundbreaking move, the WHO officially endorsed the first-ever malaria vaccine in 2021, recognizing the urgent need to address the devastating impact of this disease, particularly in Africa, where the majority of the world’s estimated 200 million cases and 400,000 deaths occur.

This endorsement is seen as a historic effort to combat malaria and bring relief to the affected regions.

The vaccine known as Mosquirix, developed by GSK, has been a topic of discussion among health experts due to its low efficacy rate of only 30%.

Moreover, the vaccine requires four doses and protection fades away within months, making it less effective than what officials would like.

Despite being one of the biggest backers of the GSK vaccine, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation stopped financially supporting it in 2015, citing its low efficacy rate.

However, they have continued to support the vaccine rollout by backing Gavi, a global vaccines alliance that is purchasing the GSK shots for distribution in poorer countries.

The limited access to the GSK vaccine is a significant difference between the two vaccines, as only a few countries are scheduled to receive it in the next few years. GSK can produce only about 15 million doses a year, while the Serum Institute has claimed it could make up to 200 million doses of the Oxford vaccine annually.

As a result, Alister Craig, an emeritus professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, has recommended that countries switch to the Oxford vaccine instead of trying to obtain the GSK vaccine.

According to Craig, the widespread implementation of the new vaccine in Africa has the potential to significantly decrease the number of severe illnesses and deaths caused by malaria within a few years.

However, it is important to note that neither of the malaria vaccines currently available can prevent the transmission of the disease.

Therefore, relying solely on immunization campaigns will not be sufficient to halt epidemics. Additionally, efforts to combat malaria are being further complicated by the emergence of drug resistance and the proliferation of invasive mosquito species.

Despite the potential benefits of the new vaccine, Craig warns against viewing it as a definitive solution to the malaria problem.

In a separate decision, the World Health Organization’s expert group has also approved a dengue vaccine manufactured by Takeda, which has previously received approval from the European Union drug regulator.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), expert groups have recently recommended the use of the Takeda dengue vaccine in children aged 6 to 16, particularly in countries where the disease is highly prevalent.

This recommendation is based on previous studies that have demonstrated the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations and reducing symptoms associated with dengue.

The Takeda dengue vaccine has shown promising results in clinical trials, with an estimated efficacy of approximately 84% in preventing hospitalizations due to dengue.

Furthermore, it has been found to be about 61% effective in reducing the severity of symptoms even four years after receiving the immunization.

These findings highlight the potential of the vaccine to significantly contribute to the prevention and control of dengue outbreaks, particularly in regions where the disease poses a significant burden on public health.

The urgency for an effective dengue vaccine is underscored by the ongoing epidemic in Bangladesh, which has claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people this year alone.

This outbreak represents the country’s worst episode of dengue, and it emphasizes the need for immediate and targeted interventions to mitigate the impact of the disease on the population.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral infection that affects millions of people worldwide, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions.

The disease is characterized by high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain, and in severe cases, it can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can be fatal.

The burden of dengue on healthcare systems and communities is substantial, with significant economic and social implications.

The WHO’s recommendation to use the Takeda dengue vaccine in children aged 6 to 16 in high-prevalence countries is a significant step forward in the global fight against dengue.

By targeting this specific age group, the vaccine has the potential to protect a vulnerable population segment that is particularly susceptible to severe dengue infections.

Additionally, immunizing children can contribute to reducing the overall transmission of the virus, as they often act as reservoirs for dengue transmission within communities.

However, it is important to note that the implementation of the vaccine should be accompanied by comprehensive public health strategies, including vector control measures and community education programs.

While the vaccine offers a valuable tool in preventing dengue infections, its effectiveness can be further enhanced when combined with other preventive measures.

In conclusion, the WHO’s expert groups have recommended the use of the Takeda dengue vaccine in children aged 6 to 16 in countries with a high prevalence of dengue.

The vaccine has shown promising results in preventing hospitalizations and reducing symptoms associated with dengue.

This recommendation comes at a crucial time, as Bangladesh is currently experiencing its worst outbreak of dengue, with a significant number of fatalities.

The adoption of the vaccine, along with comprehensive public health strategies, can contribute to the prevention and control of dengue outbreaks, ultimately reducing the burden of the disease on affected communities.