The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: New Hope in Malaria War As Vaccine Yields Fruit

RESEARCHERS developing a vaccine against malaria have expressed optimism for its use in the public health system after trials proved positive.

The trials that started in Siaya district in Kenya three years ago and other eleven researcher centres in seven African countries have shown that the vaccine can help protect infants against malaria.

"When compared to immunisation with a control vaccine, infants of between six to 12 weeks have one-third fewer chances of both clinical and severe malaria," said the research findings published in the England Journal of Medicine.

Siaya malaria vaccine research site coordinator Chris Odero said yesterday the trials have proved that the fight against malaria can be won.

"We are on track in the development of RTS, S/ as the first malaria vaccine for African children. The study indicates that it can help to protect young babies against malaria. We observed that it works best with the usage of bed nets by the trial participants," said Odero.

"The trial proved that the vaccine, when administered along with standard childhood vaccines, among infants aged six to 12 weeks during first vaccination, it can reduce malaria infection by 31 per cent and 37 per cent against clinical and severe malaria respectively."

The study also proved the vaccine provided protection beyond existing malaria control interventions since 86 per cent of the trial participants were already using insecticides treated bednets.

The effectiveness of the vaccine against children aged 5 to 17 months of age against clinical and severe malaria was 56 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

The researchers however recommended a follow-up in this Phase III trial to provide more data for analyses to better understand the different findings between the age categories.

On its safety, the scientist recorded an no increase of serious adverse effects among infants vaccinated with RTS,S and those who did not receive.

The major side effects recorded included local injection site reactions which were less frequent following RTS,S vaccination compared to other types of vaccines.

"We were also glad to see that the study indicated that RTS,S could be administered to young infants along with standard childhood vaccines and that side effects were similar to what we would see with those vaccines." Said Odero.

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