Medical experts have hailed a malaria vaccine that will prevent millions of young children from catching the disease, which could be available in October after trial results found that it reduces number of cases by half. Researchers say the vaccine, which has just completed the final stages of testing, could make a ‘substantial contribution’ to controlling the disease.

Drug firm, GlaxoSmithKline has applied for a licence from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the RTS,S vaccine. The news is significant because RTS,S is the first malaria vaccine to reach advanced trials. Tests were carried out on 15,500 toddlers and babies in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the study published in The Lancet journal, among those who had three doses of RTS,S and a booster shot, the number of clinical cases of malaria – those confirmed by a doctor – was reduced by 36 per cent after four years.

But the protection waned over time, boosters worked less well than the initial dose and the vaccine was not as effective in younger children. Scientists have worked on the vaccine for more than 20 years – at a cost of more than £330 million, but experts say there is a long way to go. There is no licensed vaccine against malaria anywhere in the world and researchers say they are hopeful the results will be sufficient for RTS,S to gain a licence from the EMA.

The World Health Organisation could then recommend its use by October this year. In the trials, an average of 1,363 cases of clinical malaria were prevented over four years for every 1,000 children vaccinated, and 1,774 cases in those who also received a booster. Over three years, an average 558 cases were averted for every 1,000 infants vaccinated, and 983 cases in those also given a booster dose.

Representative of Director General, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Dr. Odunukwe Nkiruka ; Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Olubunmi Otubanjo; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris; and Category Manager, Pest Care, Health Care, and Air Care, RB West Africa, Qaiser Rashid, during a symposium in commemoration of World Malaria Day 2015 in Lagos… yesterday

Meanwhile, the National Coordinator, National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Dr. Nnenna Ezeigwe, and the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, have hailed the breakthrough in malaria vaccine. They, however, said the country and the state is utilising a multi-pronged strategy; which include vector control interventions, preventive therapies, diagnostic testing, treatment with quality-assured Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), and strong malaria surveillance to control and eliminate malaria.

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