Ghana Is First Country To Approve Oxford Malaria Vaccine
Ghana has become the first country to approve a highly effective malaria vaccine developed at Oxford university in the UK.
The R21/Matrix-M vaccine, the first to exceed the World Health Organization’s target of 75% efficacy, has been cleared for use by Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority in children aged 5-36 months, the group at highest risk of death from malaria.
Prof Adrian Hill, the director of the Jenner Institute, which is part of the Nuffield Department of medicine at Oxford University, said: “This marks a culmination of 30 years of malaria vaccine research at Oxford with the design and provision of a high efficacy vaccine that can be supplied at adequate scale to the countries who need it most.”
However, observers warned it was “no silver bullet” in the complex fight against the mosquito-borne disease. An estimated 619,000 people died from malaria in 2021, the vast majority of them children in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO.
In Ghana, where the disease is both endemic and perennial, an estimated 5.3m cases and 12,500 estimated deaths were recorded.
The WHO has yet to recommend the R21 vaccine for widespread use and until it does there is a question mark over the amount of international funding available for it. The vaccine’s phase 3 trial is ongoing, but earlier trials have shown efficacy levels of 77%, a level maintained after a single booster dose given a year later.