The results of final clinical trials of the first viable malaria vaccine show it offers partial protection against malaria for up to four years. The vaccine is called RTS,S and has been developed over two decades by GlaxoSmithKline and a non-profit organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It is designed for children in African countries and if approved by international regulators, like the World Health Organization, it could be made available for use in Africa from October.
However, early trial data from 2011 and 2012 – carried out on 16,000 children from seven African countries – showed that vaccines in babies aged 5 – 17 months were only effective in 46% of children, diminishing hopes that RTS,S would be effective.
But final data published in The Lancet journal Friday showed that the vaccinated children were still protected four years later, and that protection rates were improved with booster shots.
Malaria currently kills more than 660,000 people a year, and some 1,300 children in sub-Saharan Africa die every day from the parasitic disease – nearly one child every minute.
Although the RTS,S vaccine is only partially effective, it marks a scientific milestone as the first to reach advanced clinical trials with some success.