The World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) has recommended pilot projects to understand how best to use a vaccine that protects young children against malaria.
A statement issued by Dr Margaret Harris, spokesperson of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the group met last week with the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) to consider the evidence on the efficacy and safety of the malaria vaccine.
“This was a historic meeting with two of WHO’s major advisory committees working together to consider current evidence about this vaccine,” Professor Fred Binka, acting Chair of MPAC said.
“The committees agreed that pilot implementations should be the next step with this vaccine.”
The WHO said the vaccine, known as RTS,S, is the first vaccine for malaria, but there is one primary question.
“The question about how the malaria vaccine may best be delivered still needs to be answered,” said Professor Jon S. Abramson, Chair of SAGE.
“After detailed assessment of all the evidence, we recommended that this question is best addressed by having three-five large pilot implementation projects.”
The statement noted that it requires four doses for a child to be fully protected and therefore, requires additional contacts with the health care system.
The first three doses are given one month apart followed by an 18-month pause before the fourth dose; without the fourth dose, children had no overall reduction in severe malaria.
WHO says the malaria vaccine, RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally, and the most prevalent in Africa.
It however offers no protection against P. vivax malaria, which is predominant in many countries outside of Africa.
WHO says the vaccine is being assessed as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to, but not replace the core package of proven malaria preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures.