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Malaria vaccine needs pilot projects - experts

Monday October 26th, 2015

Pilot projects need to be set up in Africa to test the implementation of a new malaria vaccine, an expert committee has decided.

The vaccine, RTS,S, is the first vaccine to show effectiveness against the disease.

But it needs four doses to be effective - and World Health Organisation experts say this may cause problems in Africa where it will work against the P.falciparum parasite.

The fourth dose has to be given 18 months after the first three doses.

Professor Jon Abramson, chair of the expert committee, said: “The question about how the malaria vaccine may best be delivered still need to be answered.

“After detailed assessment of all the evidence we recommended that this question is best addressed by having three to five large pilot implementation projects.”

The charity Medicins sans Frontieres gave a cautious welcome to the move - but called for efforts to find an effective vaccine to be continued.

Its medical director Dr Micaela Serafini said: : “Considering the RTS,S malaria vaccine is at best effective about one third of the time, and requires four doses, we think that WHO has made a rational recommendation based on the evidence available for the vaccine’s limited use, but urges caution and close monitoring.

“Most areas with a high burden of malaria cases are in low-resource settings with weak health systems, so the successful introduction of RTS,S in these areas would be extremely challenging, requiring intensive resourcing better placed on scaling up existing malaria treatment and prevention activities."

* The experts also called for the withdrawal of one polio vaccine, which is designed to work against type 2 poliovirus. The type 2 wild poliovirus was declared eradicated in September and has not been detected since 1999 - but the vaccine itself can cause paralysis.

The move would mean the polio vaccine would contain only type 1 and 3 viruses.

Yesterday was World Polio Day and health experts were celebrating the apparent disappearance of the wild poliovirus in Africa.

No case has been reported for a year, the World Health Organisation said.

This year the virus has only been seen in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Tags: Africa | Flu & Viruses | World Health

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