WHO has approved the malaria vaccine developed in Oxford.

A malaria vaccine developed by researchers at the University of Oxford has been approved for use by the World Health Organization and is expected to save millions of lives around the world.

The disease, which was responsible for an estimated 627,000 deaths in 2020, remains one of the leading causes of death among children in sub-Saharan Africa. This is despite the annual global death rate having almost halved since 2000.

The Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford has collaborated with the Serum Institute of India to develop this vaccine, which has been recommended for use by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) and the Malaria Policy Advisory Group (MPAG), which Both are components of WHO.

This approval is an important step toward vaccinating children, the population most at risk for malaria, as well as a more affordable and easily implementable option.

It has become the second vaccine approved by WHO for use for the prevention of malaria in children. To date, the vaccine has been licensed for use in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, with Mali and Tanzania participating in phase 3 clinical trials.

The vaccine was approved after rigorous testing involving pre-clinical and clinical trials in 4 countries, where it was proven to be both safe and effective in protecting against the disease.

It found that at 12 months, the vaccine had 75% efficacy in areas with high seasonal malaria transmission and 68% efficacy in areas with more perennial transmission. A booster dose was found to be required to maintain efficacy over 12 months, with 74% efficacy achieved 18 months after vaccination.

The vaccine is particularly effective among young children, who are intended to be its primary recipients.

Along with prevention measures like mosquito nets, the vaccine has the potential to change the lives of millions of people. Professor Sir Adrian Hill, who leads the Jenner Institute, praised how “the vaccine is readily available, cost-effective and affordable, [and] “Ready for distribution in areas where it is needed most.”

Adar Poonawala, CEO of Serum Institute of India, said, “The WHO recommendation and approval… is a major milestone in our journey to combat this disease.” It is hoped that further licenses will follow this historic approval by WHO and pave the way to a “healthier, more equitable world for all”.

Image Credit: Focal Photo via flickr

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