Scientists on Friday announced the efficacy and safety of a candidate vaccine they have been trying over the past five years.
Malaria kills about 110 people everyday in Malawi.
The University of North Carolina (UNC) Project in Lilongwe, alongside 10 others sites in African countries, conducted the study to come up with the vaccine, RTS,S, in partnership with PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and GSK.
Releasing the results in Lilongwe, UNC country director Professor Francis Martinson called the study a breakthrough.
Said Martinson: “Today, we report the success of a vaccine that has shown to be effective in preventing acquisition of malaria in children. We salute the children of Malawi and their parents who, through their participation, have contributed to this successful story. We look forward to the day when children will go to the clinic and be vaccinated to be protected against malaria.”
The study findings indicated RTS,S, followed by a booster dose of the same administered 18 months after the primary schedule reduced by 30 percent the number of cases of clinical malaria in children aged 5-17 months at first vaccination and by 26 percent in infants aged 6-12 weeks. The studies commenced in March 2009 and wound up in January last year.
Nelecy Chome, the study’s community activities coordinator, added: “Statistically, significant efficacy against severe malaria to the end of the study period was observed only in children who received the booster dose.”
However, Martinson cautioned against complacency, saying the discovery just compliments existing malaria control interventions.
“Malaria still continue to be a huge burden on the health sector with children being the most affected. So we need to continue to look for other tools to add to the existing prevention measures to further protect our children from getting malaria,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Jean Kalilani has welcomed the final research findings, saying the vaccine, if licensed, would go a long way to help reducing malaria infections in the country.
“The vaccine may not be 100 percent efficient, but like they say, half a loaf is better than none. It means we are finally making headway in the global fight against malaria,” she said.