Malaria vaccine developed by scientists at the Jenner Institute of Oxford University has shown up to 77 percent efficacy in Burkina Faso.
The findings come from the first 12 months of an ongoing phase two trial, which was first launched in the Africa country in May 2019 and involves 450 children, aged 5 to 17 months.
Oxford vaccine is the first to meet the WHO goal of 75 percent efficacy against the mosquito-borne parasite disease. Larger trials are now beginning, involving 4,800 children in four countries.
There has been a hunt for a vaccine against the life-threatening disease which claims hundreds of thousands of lives annually.
Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute, expressed optimism that the vaccine has the potential to cut the death toll dramatically.
“What we’re hoping to do is take that 400,000 down to tens of thousands in the next five years, which would be absolutely fantastic.”
Hill said the institute might apply for emergency approval for the malaria vaccine just as it did for the COVID jab.
“I’m making the argument as forcefully as I can, that because malaria kills a lot more people than Covid in Africa, you should think about emergency-use authorisation for a malaria vaccine for use in Africa. And that’s never been done before.”
“They did Covid in months – why shouldn’t they do malaria in a similar length of time as the health problem is an even greater scale in Africa?” Hill queried.
Reacting to the development, Gareth Jenkins, of Malaria No More UK, said: “We can end malaria in our generation but only if governments invest in the research needed to deliver the new medicines and products that can accelerate the end of this terrible disease.
“The Jenner Institute’s groundbreaking work on both the new Covid-19 and malaria vaccines is a great example of this and demonstrates just how much humanity’s safety is dependent on new science.
“An effective and safe malaria vaccine would be a hugely significant extra weapon in the armory needed to defeat malaria, which still kills over 270,000 children every year. For decades British scientists have been at the forefront of developing new ways to detect, diagnose, test, and treat malaria, and we must continue to back them.
“A world without malaria is a world safer both for the children who would otherwise be killed by this disease and for us here at home. Countries freed from the malaria burden will be much better equipped to fight off new disease threats when they inevitably emerge in the future.”