Health News of Monday, 16 November 2015
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC) have jointly recommended pilot projects to understand how to best use a vaccine that protects young children against malaria.
The decision was contained in a press release after a meeting of the two advisory committees of WHO.
Chair of MPAC, Professor Fred Binka, said the meeting was “a historic meeting with two of WHO’s major advisory committees working together to consider current evidence about this vaccine.”
He said the committees agreed that the pilot implementations should be the next step with the vaccine.
The statement said the vaccine, known as RTS,S, was the first vaccine for malaria, but there was one primary question.
It said it required four doses for a child to be fully protected and, therefore, required additional contacts with the healthcare system.
The first three doses are given one month apart followed by an 18-month pause before the fourth dose. Without the fourth dose, children had no overall reduction in severe malaria.
“The question about how the malaria vaccine may best be delivered still needs to be answered,” Professor Jon S. Abramson, Chair of SAGE, said.
“After detailed assessment of all the evidence, we recommended that this question is best addressed by having 3-5 large pilot implementation projects,” he added.
The malaria vaccine, RTS,S, acts against P. falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.
It offers no protection against P. vivax malaria, which predominates in many countries outside of Africa.
The vaccine is being assessed as a complementary malaria control tool that could potentially be added to, but not replace, the core package of proven malaria preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures.
The Chairman of the Clinical Trial Partnership Committee that implemented the malaria vaccine trials in Africa, Dr Kwaku Poku Asante, said the advice was a further step in the process of policy recommendation and consideration for the use of the RTS,S malaria vaccine.
Dr Asante, who is also the Head of Research of the Kintampo Health Research Centre, said malaria still remained a high burden to families in sub-Saharan African.
“In our Phase three trials, we found that the RTS,S malaria vaccine had the potential to prevent several thousands of malaria cases and could be implemented as an additional malaria control tool to reduce the burden of malaria. We look forward to the final WHO policy recommendation on this subject,” he said.