The WHO has advised the use of a second malaria vaccine on Monday in Geneva as a way to prevent the dangerous transmission of the disease by certain types of mosquitoes.
“During a briefing in Geneva, WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that nearly two years ago, the organization advised for the widespread implementation of RTS,S – the first malaria vaccine in the world.”
“Today, it brings me immense joy to declare that the World Health Organization (WHO) is endorsing a second vaccine, known as R21/Matrix-M, for the prevention of malaria in children who are vulnerable to the illness.”
R21/Matrix-M, developed by Britain’s University of Oxford, will become available by mid-2024, Mr. Tedros said, adding that doses would cost between $2 and $4.
Mr. Tedros stated that the World Health Organization is currently evaluating the vaccine for prequalification, which is a certification from WHO. This will allow GAVI and UNICEF to purchase the vaccine directly from the manufacturers.
The mass production of R21/Matrix-M is conducted by Serum Institute of India and utilizes Novavax’s Matrix M adjuvant.
The CEO of Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawalla, stated that they have already manufactured over 20 million doses in preparation for the WHO’s recommendation.
During an interview, he stated that they will increase production according to the demand. They aim for complete alignment between demand and supply by the end of 2024, with their supply being integrated into the system.
In 2021, the United Nations agency recommended the RTS,S shot by GSK Plc as a vaccine, sold under the brand Mosquirix. The new vaccine will be a competitor to this one.
The World Health Organization stated that both vaccines had demonstrated comparable effectiveness in individual trials. However, without a direct comparison trial, there is no evidence to determine which one is superior.
The organization has delegated the decision of which product to use to individual countries, taking into account factors such as cost and availability.
GSK stated that they have acknowledged the necessity for another malaria vaccine, however, they also acknowledge that the first ever malaria vaccine, RTS,S, and the first vaccine for a human parasite, has set a high standard.
The company stated that more than 1.7 million children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi have been given at least one dose of the vaccine, and it will also be introduced in nine other countries where malaria is prevalent starting in the beginning of next year.
Each year, more than 600,000 people die from malaria worldwide, with the majority being children in Africa.
Tedros mentioned that the organization has suggested the use of Takeda Pharmaceuticals’ Qdenga vaccine for children between the ages of 6 and 16 in regions where dengue is a major concern for public health.
Dengue is a viral disease that is prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions and is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites.
According to Hanna Nohynek, chair of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, Takeda’s vaccine has been proven effective against all four types of the virus in individuals who had previous dengue infections during trials.
However, there is still uncertainty about how well it will work against serotypes 3 and 4 in individuals who have not previously been infected.
The WHO’s advisory group has suggested a simplified single-dose schedule for initial COVID-19 vaccinations, in order to increase willingness to receive the shots amidst a population that has already experienced at least one previous infection.
The agency stated that in countries where monovalent vaccines targeting the XBB.1.5 variant are not available, any monovalent or bivalent vaccine can be administered. This variant has been prevalent in various regions this year.