Malaria Vaccine


Mosqito who might carry malaria

Kaeden Brown

Malaria, one of the deadliest diseases in history, has long been an issue, especially in African countries. Can a vaccine be the saving grace Africa needs?

The United States (U.S.) Government has recently promised to contribute money to the malaria vaccine rollout throughout East African countries such as Gavi, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. The malaria virus is caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes that is transferred when the bugs bite. An infection will cause fever and chills and, if not treated, can cause death. There have been a few malaria vaccines prior to the current iteration, the RTS,S (otherwise known as Mosquirix) vaccine. These previous vaccines have been less effective and have only been used on adults. The RTS,S vaccine has just been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for rollout in East Africa for use on children. In trials, this vaccine has been shown to have 80% effectiveness against the malaria virus. 

Around 1.3 million children have had the benefit of protection thanks to the pilot program of this vaccine. The hope is that with funding from the U.S. and other countries, the vaccine can be spread across Africa. In 2019, over 250,000 children under the age of five died of malaria. This makes the disease more deadly than COVID-19 (only 212,000) in Africa. Now that the vaccine rollout frenzy has lessened, other diseases like malaria can come into focus.

Though it was discovered in 1880, there wasn’t a malaria vaccine created until 1987 by GlaxoSmithKline, with support and funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It took almost 30 years to make and gave 40% protection against contracting the disease. The modern iteration works much better at 80% effectiveness against the disease. “We hope this is just the beginning. Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market,” commented UNICEF Director, Etleva Kadilli. This vaccine is extremely helpful and lifesaving for the sub-Saharan African youth who were in desperate need of malaria prevention measures.  

“Using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year,” is a comment made by WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the usage plan and effect of the vaccine. Though the vaccine was first produced in 2019, the US has recently made the promise to donate $18 million every year for the next three years to support the rollout of the vaccine. Though it will most likely take less than three years to spread the vaccine between the three pilot countries, the distribution in others surrounding them and the whole sub-Saharan region will greatly benefit from the money and support. Only time will tell how well the rollout goes, but based on the slow, yet effective stopping of COVID-19, a plan should take effect soon, and these valuable resources can get into the hands of those who so desperately need them.

Supporting smaller and less privileged countries like this is a great way to grow alliances, gain foreign resources, and grow trust. Skills like these are valuable for maintaining peace and avoiding conflict overseas.