Editor’s Note: April 17, 2019

Does Africa need a malaria vaccine?

A pilot programme for the world’s first malaria vaccine will start in Malawi next week, with Kenya and Ghana to follow. Development of RTS,S, known as Mosquirix, has been led by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, at a cost of around $1bn.

Piloting the vaccine in Africa makes sense. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the continent accounted for 92% of malaria cases and 93% of deaths caused by the disease in 2017.

With such numbers the need for a vaccine looks self-evident, but it’s easy to forget that eliminating malaria is primarily a policy issue.

Since its discovery in 1897 the disease has shrunk from being prevalent across the globe to its current concentration in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2017 just 5 countries – Nigeria, DRC, Uganda, Zambia and India – accounted for almost half of all infections. Nigeria alone accounted for 25%.

By contrast southern Africa has made considerable progress. In India, malaria cases dropped 24% in 2017 due to stronger political commitment, better leadership and more funding, according to the WHO.

Focusing on better policies in the countries most affected could be more effective than waiting for a vaccine.

Especially as Mosquirix has a success rate of around 40%. It will be years, and many more dollars, before a truly effective vaccine comes to market.

From The Continent

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The Daily Stat

5.5%

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