Protection site

Oxford’s malaria vaccine boosts long-lasting high protection in children

A booster shot of a malaria vaccine developed at the University of Oxford showed high and long-lasting protection in children, according to a study that offered hope in the fight against the deadly disease.

Malaria, which is caused by parasites, is both preventable and curable. There were 241 million cases worldwide in 2020, according to the World Health Organization, resulting in around 627,000 deaths. Africa has the most cases and deaths, and children are particularly affected.

The findings of the peer-reviewed mid-term study were published Wednesday in The Lancet health journal. A total of 450 participants aged 5 to 17 months participated in the study in Burkina Faso, of whom 409 received a booster.

Participants were randomly split into three groups, with the first two receiving the R21 vaccine with an adjuvant – a substance that enhances the effectiveness of shots – at a high or low dose, producing higher and lower effectiveness respectively. The third group received a rabies vaccine. Each child received a new dose of the same vaccine they had previously received.

A booster dose of the malaria vaccine was effective up to 80% in one group and 70% in the other. The efficacy was calculated against clinical signs of malaria, the scientists said, adding that it met the WHO efficacy threshold of at least 75%.

“A standard four-dose vaccination regimen can now, for the first time, achieve the two-year high level of efficacy that has been an ambitious target for malaria vaccines for so many years,” said Professor Adrian Hill. , who runs the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. research organization and was co-author of the article.

Halidou Tinto, the trial’s lead investigator, said it was “fantastic [to] regain such high efficacy after a single booster dose”.

Another co-author, Oxford’s Katie Ewer, said it was “possible” that a second encore might not be needed, although it was too early to tell. She added that the data seemed “very strong” for study participants, but that could change with a larger population.

The vaccine is administered with Novavax’s Matrix-M adjuvant and is licensed by the Serum Institute of India.

Oxford’s Hill said the Serum Institute was “willing and able to produce 200 million doses a year next year”, but stressed the challenge would be logistics and roll-out in each country. He added that Oxford and the Serum Institute were looking to manufacture the vaccine directly in Africa, although that “wouldn’t happen in a few months”. He declined to give a specific price for the vaccine, which he said would be “a few dollars a dose”.

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A previous analysis of the study showed 77% effectiveness over 12 months.

The trial will continue for another two years to determine if further booster doses will be needed to maintain protection. Results from a late-stage trial in 4,800 children are also expected this year.

The WHO, which says the coronavirus pandemic has undermined efforts to prevent and manage the disease, broadly backed a GSK malaria vaccine for children late last year. However, fewer doses – 18 minutes over the next three years – are available than the jab developed by Oxford. Hill said the university will seek WHO approval this month.