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New malaria vaccine developments bring hope to the fight against the disease

Geneva, 5th May 2021 – The RBM Partnership to End Malaria welcomes ongoing efforts to innovate and scale up life-saving new tools to tackle malaria, following the recent publication of results from two ongoing vaccine initiatives.

Ahead of World Malaria Day, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute reported findings from a second phase trial of its R21 vaccine, demonstrating high-level efficacy of 77% over 12-months of follow-up. The results, determined from a group of 450 children in Burkina Faso, are very encouraging and the RBM Partnership looks forward to the successful completion of the Phase 3 trials, which critically will include areas where malaria occurs year-round.

Two years on from the launch of the pilot programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also announced that more than 1.7 million doses of the RTS,S malaria vaccine have been administered in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, benefiting 650,000 children with additional malaria protection. The number of children reached in this short period of time signals strong community demand for the vaccine, as well as sufficient capacity of the three African nations immunization programmes to deliver 4 doses of the vaccine up to 2 years of age. Delivered by a coalition of partners including the World Health Organization, PATH and GSK, RTS,S is the only malaria vaccine to have successfully completed Phase 3 trials and has been shown to reduce clinical malaria cases by 55% during the 12 months following primary vaccination, and by 39% over 4 years.

Despite the unparalleled progress achieved in the malaria fight over the past two decades, over 400,000 people still die from malaria each year, with children under 5 years old disproportionately at risk.

Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said:To ensure we continue to save lives and accelerate progress towards our global goals, we need to significantly expand access to and target the use of proven malaria interventions while also staying a step ahead of the ever-adapting malaria parasite and mosquito. This will only be possible through ongoing investment in innovation and scaling up a suite of tools that together can deliver the greatest impact. These encouraging results are positive developments in the fight against malaria. We look forward to seeing how these potentially transformative new tools perform in the next phase of trials and to how they could complement existing tools that are saving hundreds of thousands of lives every year from malaria.”

Long-term global commitment to the research, development and delivery of transformative tools for fighting malaria contributed to saving 7.6 million lives from malaria and preventing 1.5 new infections since 2000. Thanks to significant investments in the last two decades, today, the toolbox of proven life-saving malaria interventions to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease – including drugs, diagnostics, insecticides, a first vaccine, genetic epidemiology and collection and use of data – is stronger and more diverse than ever before, with experts agreeing that malaria eradication is a possible and viable goal.

The latest announcements also give hope that the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to positive advances in research and development, including improved manufacturing and distribution capabilities, underlining the importance of global investment and collaboration in global health to fight deadly diseases like malaria and COVID-19.

Photo credits: World Health Organization

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