New results published today in the New England Journal of Medicine about a large-scale Phase III trial conducted in seven African countries of the malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S deserve a hearty round of applause. This preliminary look at the interim analysis of efficacy trial results, which are consistent with the previous safety and immunogenicity data, show that the vaccination regimen can reduce the risk of clinical malaria by more than half in African children aged five to 17 months during the 12 months after vaccination.1 In an early look at the combined age group of younger and older children vaccine efficacy against severe malaria was 35%. This was achieved in situations when insecticide-treated anti-malarial bed nets were being used a majority of the time.
These promising results demonstrate the power of product development public-private partnerships to tackle global challenges. GAVI commends the efforts of its partners, the Malaria Vaccine Initiative at PATH and GlaxoSmithKline and the dedication of the entire malaria community including the 11 African research centers currently conducting the trial.
The trial also shows the life-saving impact that vaccines can have on disease caused by a parasite, in addition to those caused by viruses and bacteria. As the first successful efficacy trial vaccine against a human parasite, RTS,S represents another major milestone in vaccinology.
Malaria kills more than 700,000 people every year.2 And when it does not kill, it leaves behind lives of misery and lost opportunity. According to the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, malaria costs around 40% of public health spending in sub-Saharan Africa and African families themselves spend about 10% of their income to prevent and treat it. Malaria's human toll and its economic costs to governments and families alike are why a vaccine's arrival is so eagerly awaited.
When that day comes – and we firmly hope it will – a malaria vaccine should become part of the vaccine schedule for all children at risk. GAVI partners have spent the past decade introducing underused and new vaccines that can provide a strong delivery platform for a malaria vaccine. GAVI looks forward to further data, including the results in infants 6 to 10 weeks of age (when the normal vaccination schedule is delivered) and the durability of the protection over the whole trial period, as well as the international community's recommendations for the vaccine's use.
1 The trial demonstrated that the RTS,S reduced the risk of children experiencing clinical malaria and severe malaria by 56% to 47%, respectively.
2 World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs094/en/