The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended for use of the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India (SII) after it met the required safety, quality, and effectiveness standards.
Why do we need a second vaccine against malaria?
Every minute, at least one child dies due to malaria globally. Children and infants below the age of three are the most at-risk group when it comes to malaria.
R21 is the world’s second vaccine for malaria and the first that ensures 77 percent efficacy over 12 months of follow-up. This is more than the WHO's efficacy target of 75 percent.
Interestingly, the vaccine showed 77 percent and 71 percent efficacy in the higher-dose adjuvant groups and the lower-dose adjuvant groups respectively.
The first vaccine, RTS-S, was approved by the WHO in October 2021 and has been administered to over a million children since its approval. Four doses of the vaccine “reduce clinical malaria cases by 39 percent and severe malaria by 30 percent,” GAVI reported.
How does the vaccine work?
The R21 vaccine attacks the sporozoite plasmodium, targeting the disease at its base, as this is the parasite that first enters the body and spreads malaria.
“Only a few (10–100) sporozoites are injected by infected mosquitoes before the parasite multiplies, making them the ideal target for a vaccine. R21 is a subunit vaccine that delivers parts of a protein secreted by the sporozoite that are bundled up with a part of the hepatitis B virus that is known to trigger a strong immune response.”GAVI Report
Where was the research published?
R21 or the Matrix-M is the world’s second vaccine for malaria, which is being called a “game changer.”
The Oxford University researchers published their study, titled High Efficacy of a Low Dose Candidate Malaria Vaccine, R21 in 1 Adjuvant Matrix-M, with Seasonal Administration to Children in Burkina Faso, in The Lancet journal, based on the Phase IIb trials of the vaccine.
So far, Ghana is the only country to have approved the vaccine for children between the ages of 5-36 months.
“This marks a culmination of 30 years of malaria vaccine research at Oxford with the design and provision of a high efficacy vaccine that can be supplied at adequate scale to the countries who need it most.”Professor Adrian Hill, Chief Investigator of the vaccine program, Director at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute