A booster shot of a malaria vaccine developed at the University of Oxford has demonstrated high and durable protection in children, according to a study that offered hope in the fight against the deadly disease.
Malaria, which is caused by parasites, is both preventable and curable. According to the World Health Organization, there were 241 million cases globally in 2020, which led to an estimated 627,000 deaths. Most cases and deaths occur in Africa, and children are particularly affected.
The findings of the mid-stage peer-reviewed study were: published on Wednesday in The Lancet Health Journal. A total of 450 participants aged five to 17 months took part in the study in Burkina Faso, of whom 409 received a booster.
Participants were randomly assigned to three groups, the first two receiving the R21 vaccine with an adjuvant — a substance that enhances the efficacy of Jabs — at high or low doses, providing high and low efficacy, respectively. The third group received the rabies vaccine. Each child received another dose of the same vaccine they had been given before.
A booster dose of the malaria vaccine showed up to 80 percent efficacy in one group and 70 percent in the other. The efficacy was calculated against the clinical symptoms of malaria, the scientists said, adding that it meets the WHO’s efficacy limit to at least 75 per cent.
“A standard four-dose vaccination regimen can now reach a high efficacy level in two years, which has been an aspirational target for malaria vaccines for so many years,” said Professor Adrian Hill, head of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. research body and was a co-author of the paper.
Halidou Tinto, the trial’s principal investigator, said it was “fantastic”. [to] See such high efficacy again after a booster dose”.
Another co-author, Katie Ewers of Oxford, said it is “possible” that a second booster will not be needed, although it is too early to say. He said the data seemed “very solid” for the study participants, but that could change with the broader population.
The vaccine is administered with Novavax’s Matrix-M Adjuvant and is licensed to Serum Institute of India.
Oxford Hill said the Serum Institute was “ready and able to manufacture 200 million doses next year”, but stressed that the challenge would be logistics and deployment in each country. He said Oxford and the Serum Institute were looking to manufacture the vaccine directly in Africa, although this “would not happen in months”. He declined to give an exact price for the vaccine, which he said would be “a few dollars a dose”.
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A previous analysis of the study showed an efficacy of 77 percent at 12 months.
This trial will continue for the next two years to determine whether further booster doses will be needed to maintain safety. Late test results are also expected in 4,800 children this year.
The WHO, which says the coronavirus pandemic has undermined efforts to prevent and manage the disease, late last year extended broad support to the GSK malaria vaccine for children. However, fewer doses than the Oxford-developed jab – 18 million over the next three years – are available. Hill said the university would apply for WHO approval this month.