a mosquito bite, a breakthrough for science – Liberation

United world: extreme urgency

United world: extreme urgencybox

If the recent vaccine starts to work, it is only 30% effective and is still just one tool among others to drastically reduce the infant mortality rate.

On March 22, 2022, Release and the NGO ONE are organizing a special day to challenge presidential candidates on the return of extreme poverty around the world and its consequences for the great challenges ahead. On the program: global warming, debt burden, public development aid, food security … Meeting at the Théâtre du Rond-Point from 9 am. A special 20-page booklet will accompany this event, in the edition of Release of March 22nd. to find in this file these articles.

In parts of western Kenya, hospitals are full of children with malaria. In this large East African country, this disease, which still claimed 627,000 lives in 2020, 96% of them in Africa, is a major public health problem. Almost three-quarters of the population is at risk of contracting it due to altitude, heavy rainfall and high temperatures.

But more than two years after launching a pilot program for the world’s first malaria vaccine, Kenya is slowly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to this new tool, hospitals in this endemic region are experiencing a decline in the incomes of children under 5, which account for 80% of deaths attributable to this parasitic disease.

“Historic moment”

On October 6, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave the green light to the mass deployment of the RTS, S (Mosquirix, its trade name) vaccine in children living in sub-Saharan Africa and risk A “historic moment […]a breakthrough for science, child health, and the fight against malariarejoiced Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the UN agency. Using this vaccine in addition to existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year. “. It took more than thirty years to achieve this breakthrough, due to the complexity of developing a vaccine against a parasite, not a virus. In December, the board of the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) approved a vaccination program in endemic countries on the African continent and released more than $ 155 million for the period 2022-2025.

As early as 2019, Kenya, but also Ghana and Malawi, began introducing this vaccine in regions with moderate or high transmission. More than 830,000 children have been vaccinated while 2.3 million doses have been administered. Manufactured by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), it is the first vaccine to cause a significant reduction in severe malaria (-30%) and pediatric hospitalizations, even in areas where there is good access to diagnosis and to treatment. “Introduced on a large scale in Africa, this vaccine will result in millions of cases of malaria prevented and allow more families to remain intact.”explains Dr. Mary Hamel, WHO Manager of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program.

In high-transmission areas, where 20-30% of child deaths are attributable to malaria, few families have lost a child, sibling, or loved one due to mosquito-borne disease. Especially because the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted control efforts, contributing to a significant increase in the number of cases (14 million) and deaths (69,000) between 2019 and 2020. Advances in the fight against malaria they had already stagnated in recent years, mainly due to lack of funding and resistance of mosquitoes and the parasite to insecticides and antimalarials. A truly one “threatens global vector control efforts”deplores a spokesman for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Range of tools

If the WHO welcomes “A perfect example of work innovation and scientific advancement”the UN agency advises states to consider the vaccine as an integral part of the tools at their disposal. “The efficiency of RTS, S is only 30%, which is still too low. The vaccine should be absolutely combined with other means of prevention, such as the use of insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets.says the director of the NGO Impact Santé Afrique, Olivia Ngou. Further research is needed to obtain a vaccine with at least 80 to 90% effectiveness. A recent study by the London School of Tropical Medicine also reported a 70% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among children receiving the RTS, S vaccine combined with antimalarial treatments during the rainy season.

The ministries of health in endemic countries will now have to determine whether they intend to introduce the new vaccine as part of their national malaria control plans. “These activities will take time, and the expansion of the vaccine into new countries is likely to begin in late 2023.adds Dr. Mary Hamel. We expect vaccine demand to be very high, and increasing supply to meet demand is a priority. “

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