Malaria may not be that common in first world countries but it still remains a killer infection in several parts of the world. In Africa, for instance, children still die of malaria despite the advancement in medical science.
One can say that the disparity between the two different continents can sometimes be appalling.
However, these could be the last days of children dying from the infection, specifically across Africa. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended a new malaria vaccine for babies and toddlers, the first-ever of its kind.
Experts believe that this move could save the lives of tens of thousands of children each year on the continent.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General informed that after a successful pilot programme in three African nations, the RTS, S vaccine should be made available more widely.
WHO Recommends New Malaria Vaccine For Children At Risk
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Countries in Africa have suffered the devastating effects of malaria for centuries. The new malaria vaccine has been recommended in areas with “moderate to high” levels of P. falciparum.
So children who are over five months of age should immediately begin receiving the four-shot vaccine dose to protect themselves against one of the deadliest forms of malaria.
The study revealed that by taking the vaccine in conjunction with other malaria prevention drugs, the risk of contracting malaria actually decreases by 30 per cent.
New Malaria Vaccine: RTS, S Vaccine And Its Efficacy
The RTS, S vaccine, also known as Mosquirix, has been developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It has been administered to over 800,000 children in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya since the pilot programme began in 2019.
The vaccine went through lengthy clinical trials and has been found to have limited efficacy, preventing 39 per cent of malaria cases.
Meanwhile, 29 per cent of severe malaria cases among small kids in Africa have been prevented over the four years of trial.
A study led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in August found that when young children were given both the RTS, S and antimalarial drugs, there was a 70 per cent reduction in hospitalisation or death.
“It Is Safe”
Speaking about the new malaria vaccine, Tedros said, “It is safe. It significantly reduces life-threatening, severe malaria, and we also estimate it to be highly cost-effective.”
According to CNN, the one downside to the vaccine, however, is that the efficacy of the inoculation does fade over time.
He further added, “The dream of a malaria vaccine has been a long-held but unattainable dream. Today, the RTS, S malaria vaccine, more than 30 years in the making, goes on to change the course of public health history. We still have a very long road to travel. It is a long stride down that road.”
Some countries like Sudan and Eritrea saw a significant resurgence of malaria cases in recent years. In 2019, more than 409,000 people died from malaria and most of them were from Africa.
Children under five years actually comprised more than 270,000 of the victims.
Results Of The New Malaria Vaccine
Scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University said a vaccine they developed had shown results that would make it the first to meet the WHO goal of 75 per cent efficacy.
Over one year, the vaccine showed up to 77 per cent efficacy in a trial of around 450 children in Burkina Faso. Larger trials are now about to start. They will involve 4,800 children in four countries.
Malaria And Its Symptoms
A parasite that mostly infects a certain type of mosquito causes malaria when the mosquito bites humans. It is a serious and sometimes fatal disease.
Plasmodium falciparum is the kind that’s severe and life-threatening. It’s a dangerous parasite and commonly found in many countries in Africa, south of the Sahara desert.
People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills and flu-like illness.
How does malaria transmit?
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- When an infective female Anopheles mosquito bites you, it transmits malaria parasites in your body. Do note that only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria. And they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken from an infected person.
- Malaria spreads when a mosquito becomes infected with the disease after biting an infected person. The infected mosquito then goes on to bite a non-infected person. The parasite enters that person’s bloodstream and travels to the liver. Once the parasites mature, they leave the liver and infect the red blood cells.
- Malaria can also be transmitted through organ transplant, blood transfusion, or through the use of shared needles or syringes that have been contaminated with blood. The infection can also transmit from a mum to her unborn infant before or during delivery.
Even though malaria is not contagious, it can become a severe and life-threatening disease. The infection can cure after taking prescription drugs. The kind of drugs and duration depends on the type of malaria.
That’s why it’s important to go and see a doctor if you are sick or have visited an area with higher cases of malaria.
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