Following the successful trial of a new malaria vaccine currently developed and tested in the United States, the United Nations Children Education Fund, (UNICEF), has described it as a welcome development.
According to a statement by the organisation made available to LEADERSHIP, about 300,000 annual malaria deaths, in the country, a lot of them children under five years of age, could be prevented when the vaccine hits the market.
Also, the National Coordinator, National Malaria Control Programme, Dr Nnenna Ezeigwe , urged everyone to get onto the fight against malaria, adding that it is costing the country a whopping N480 billion in prevention and treatment costs of malaria.
She said, “ malaria is a leading cause of under-five mortality in Africa (18 per cent) and accounts for 40 per cent of public health expenditure. We can use that money for something else to build roads and bridges”
The malaria vaccine has become the first to provide 100 per cent protection against the disease, confounding critics and surpassing any other experimental malaria vaccine tested, according to a report by Nature News.
The vaccine, developed and tested in the United States, will now be tested further in clinical trials in Africa, starting at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania.
The report stated that if those are successful, the vaccine may be licensed as early as four years from now.
The results, published in Science, demonstrate for the first time the concept that a malaria vaccine can provide a high level of protection, raising cautious optimism amongst researchers.
So far, the new vaccine has only been tested in the phase I safety trial, in a small study on 40 volunteers. Also, the vaccine was given intravenously, making it difficult to administer in mass vaccination campaigns or to give to children.
There is currently no effective vaccine for malaria, a disease that kills around 660,000 people, mostly children, yearly.