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Antimalarial vaccine deployed in Africa starting in May

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Antimalarial vaccine deployed in Africa starting in May

Malaria, transmitted by mosquitoes, claims over 600,000 lives annually, with 95 % of fatalities occurring in Africa, reports the World Health Organization (WHO). This disease proves particularly deadly among the young, with nearly half a million African children under the age of five accounting for the annual death toll from malaria.

Cheaper vaccine approved by WHO

« We have proposed these vaccines to the African continent for 4 USD or less in the first year. And then, as we grow, we may be able to reduce this figure even further, » stated. The R21 vaccine, a three-dose regimen with a booster shot intended for children aged 5 to 36 months, is the second malaria vaccine approved by the WHO.

Researchers claim it will be cheaper than the other vaccine produced by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. The WHO states that its deployment should significantly increase supply to meet the high demand from African countries. Like international institutions such as the BAD for its USD 1 billion climate financing project, the WHO is also doing its part to reduce the risk of the spread of malaria.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) plans to ship 25 million doses of the new vaccine this year, which was developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford and is known as R21. In terms of importance and life-saving potential, this vaccine will have an extremely significant impact, said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla.

SII : Largest vaccine manufacturer

SII has been the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer for several years. This group has seen its prominence significantly increase after producing millions of low-cost Covid vaccines for export during the height of the pandemic. As demand for coronavirus prevention declines, the company has repurposed some facilities from the pandemic era to combat other diseases in its vast industrial complex in Pune, India.

Small glass vials are filled with doses of R21 and conveyed on a conveyor belt for quality checks and packaging before imminent exportation. Poonawalla states that the institute’s aim is to deploy R21 in a few countries before the main malaria season begins, in about six to seven months. Production will eventually reach 100 million doses of R21 per year.

The vaccines will primarily be purchased and distributed through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gavi, a global vaccine alliance. Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and South Sudan will be the first five countries to receive R21 doses, according to a UNICEF spokesperson. Uganda and Nigeria are considering introducing it later in the year, he adds.

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