Malaria Vaccine Gets Pilot Testing

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The premise on which the World Health Organization based its choice of the three countries for the pilot underscores the need for other countries, including Nigeria, to initiate new malaria programmes where they do not exist and strengthen existing ones to position themselves for such interventions. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquito vectors. Patients get one shot a month for three months in a row, and then a fourth and final one 18 months later, according to BBC News.

Nevertheless, it is not clear yet if they will receive the same outcomes in the real world where people have limited access to health care.

In October 2015, two independent WHO advisory groups, comprised of the world's foremost experts on vaccines and malaria, recommended pilot implementation of RTS, S in three to five settings in sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers are conducting the testing to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine and also to determine the feasibility of the vaccine's delivery to the populations which are most at risk.

The disease infects more than 200 million people and kills nearly half a million every year, according to figures from institutions specialized in its treatment. An estimated 300 to 600 million people suffer from malaria each year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Despite the undeniable progress medical science has made in treating infectious diseases, malaria has always stuck like a thorn in humanity's side.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 663 million cases have been averted in sub-Saharan Africa since 2001. Malaria places a awful burden on numerous world's poorest countries, claiming thousands of lives and holding back economies.

Announcement of the coordinated rollout comes as the global community marks World Malaria Day and the kick-off of World Immunization Week, 24-30 April, which celebrates the widespread use of vaccines that protect people against 26 diseases. Information gathered in the pilot will help the organisation make decisions on the wider use of this vaccine. "This vaccine is a weapon amongst others, it is one of the tools at our disposal".

The malaria vaccine has been developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and the $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Trials so far involving 15,000 participants from seven countries suggest RTS, S reduces the frequency of malaria episodes by 40 percent.

"There will be other vaccines and they'll be more efficient, but in the meantime, this will have a significant influence".

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