A top UK scientist, Adrian Hill, says Oxford malaria vaccine could be tested on 4,800 children in several African countries next year, as earlier trials showed promising results.
Hill, who is the director of the Jenner Institute and among the Oxford team behind a successful COVID-19 vaccine candidate, stated this in an interview with The Times.
He revealed that the experiment was close to entering the final stage of human trials in their fight against malaria, and that the vaccine might be ready by 2024.
He described malaria as a public health emergency, warning, “A lot more people will die in Africa this year from malaria than will die from COVID-19.
“I don’t mean twice as many — probably 10 times.
“(The vaccine) is going to be available in very large amounts, it works pretty well. And it’s going to be very low priced.”
Hill noted that the treatable disease, which has so far been managed with effective drugs, may soon be able to prevent up to half a million annual malaria-related deaths.
The scientist explained that the vaccine works like a traditional inoculation where a spike protein of the virus is injected and makes the immune system to build up a response, if the real virus enters the body.
He said an Oxford trial revealed that with two doses, the vaccine was 62 per cent effective, but when people were given a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month later, its efficacy rose to 90 per cent.
According to the World Health Organisation, Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, is responsible for the deaths of more than 400,000 people last year
The WHO noted that nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of contracting it.
It pointed out that in areas with high malaria transmission, young children and pregnant women are most vulnerable to catching the infection, and – in worst case scenarios – dying from it.
The world health body described the disease as the largest killer of children, with one child dying from it every 30 seconds, and about 3,000 every day.
It revealed that 90 per cent of cases are reported to be in sub-Saharan Africa – with children under five accounting for 65 per cent of all deaths.
In its World Malaria Report 2020, the WHO said progress against the mosquito-borne disease was plateauing, particularly in African countries bearing the brunt of cases and deaths.
In 2019, the global tally of malaria cases was estimated at 229 million — a figure that has been at the same level for the past four years.
The WHO noted that a better targeting of interventions, new tools and increased funding are needed to change the global trajectory of the disease and to reach internationally-agreed targets.
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