NMCP Press Release

Partnership Welcomes Launch of First Malaria Vaccine Pilot

23 April 2019

FUNDING AGENCIES HAIL IMPORTANT STEP FOR THE WORLD’S FIRST MALARIA VACCINE

GENEVA, 23 April 2019 – Malaria vaccine pilots will be a crucial test for a potentially valuable new tool in the fight against the disease, the three agencies funding the vaccine pilots said following the launch of the first in Malawi.

The pilots, which will also launch soon in Kenya and Ghana, will aim to vaccinate around 360,000 children per year in the three countries to evaluate the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S in real-life settings, the vaccine’s potential role in reducing childhood deaths and its safety in the context of routine use.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Unitaid are together providing just under US$ 50 million to fund the first phase of the pilots. Ministries of Health in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi will implement the pilots, in coordination with WHO.

“Malaria is still one of the biggest killers of children worldwide, taking the lives of over 200,000 children every year,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “These pilots will be crucial to determine the part this vaccine could play in reducing the burden this disease continues to place on the world’s poorest countries.”

“To step up the fight against malaria, we need every available tool,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “If this pilot shows that RTS,S is a cost-effective tool against malaria, it will help us save more children’s lives.”

“The malaria vaccine is an exciting innovation that complements the global health community's efforts to end the malaria epidemic,” said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of Unitaid. “It is also a shining example of the kind of inter-agency coordination that we need. We look forward to learning how the vaccine can be integrated for greatest impact into our work.”

In clinical trials the vaccine was found to prevent approximately 4 in 10 malaria cases, as well as 3 in 10 cases of life-threatening severe malaria. It also reduced severe malaria anaemia, the most common reason children die from the disease, by 60%.

A 4-dose schedule is required, with the first dose given as soon as possible after five months of age, doses two and three given at monthly intervals after that, and the fourth dose given 15–18 months after the third dose. The vaccine will not be available in all regions of the countries, nor will it be given to adults or children outside the target age group.

In the Phase 3 trial the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with adverse reactions comparable to those of other childhood vaccines. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) carried out a scientific assessment of RTS,S and concluded that the vaccine has an acceptable safety profile in a scientific opinion issued in July 2015.

The vaccine is being considered as a complementary malaria control tool to be added to the core package of WHO-recommended measures for malaria prevention. This includes the routine use of insecticide-treated bednets, indoor spraying with insecticides and the timely use of malaria testing and treatment.

Notes to editors

About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. Gavi uses innovative finance mechanisms to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of 700 million children and the prevention of 10 million future deaths. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is supported by donor governments (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Principality of Monaco, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, Alwaleed Philanthropies, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Audacious Alliance, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, China Merchants Group, Comic Relief, Deutsche Post DHL, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, Girl Effect, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Mastercard, Majid Al Futtaim, Orange, Philips, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, UPS and Vodafone).

About The Global Fund

The Global Fund is a 21st-century partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. As a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases, the Global Fund mobilizes and invests nearly US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries. By challenging barriers and embracing innovative approaches, we are working together to better serve people affected by the diseases.

About Unitaid

Unitaid brings the power of new medical discoveries to the people who most need them and helps set the stage for large-scale introduction of new health products by collaborating with governments and partners such as PEPFAR, the Global Fund and WHO. Unitaid invests in new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and malaria more quickly, affordably and effectively. A growing number of our programs address more than one disease, maximizing effectiveness of health systems. www.unitaid.org

After more than a decade of steady advances in fighting malaria, progress has levelled off.  According to WHO’s latest World malaria report, no significant gains were made in reducing malaria cases in the period 2015 to 2017. The estimated number of malaria deaths in 2017, at 435 000, remained virtually unchanged over the previous year.

The WHO African Region continues to shoulder more than 90% of the global malaria burden. Worryingly, in the 10 African countries hardest hit by malaria, there were an estimated 3.5 million more cases of the disease in 2017 over the previous year.

Country ownership key to success 

Urgent action is needed, and ownership of the challenge lies in the hands of countries most affected by malaria. On World Malaria Day 2019, WHO joins the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, the African Union Commission and other partner organizations in promoting “Zero malaria starts with me,” a grassroots campaign that aims to keep malaria high on the political agenda, mobilize additional resources, and empower communities to take ownership of malaria prevention and care.

The “Zero malaria” campaign – first launched in Senegal in 2014 – was officially endorsed at the African Union Summit by all African Heads of State in July 2018.  It engages all members of society: political leaders who control government policy decisions and budgets; private sector companies that will benefit from a malaria-free workforce; and communities affected by malaria, whose buy-in and ownership of malaria control interventions is critical to success.

As the WHO Director General has noted, individual and community empowerment through grassroots initiatives like the “Zero malaria” campaign can play a critical role in driving progress in the global malaria fight.

“Globally, the world has made incredible progress against malaria. But we are still too far from the end point we seek: a world free of malaria. Every year, the global tally of new malaria cases exceeds 200 million. And every 2 minutes, a child dies from this preventable and treatable disease. The damage inflicted extends far beyond loss of life: malaria takes a heavy toll on health systems, sapping productivity and eroding economic growth. Ultimately, investing in universal health care is the best way to ensure that all communities have access to the services they need to beat malaria. Individual and community empowerment through grassroots initiatives like “Zero malaria starts with me” can also play a critical role in driving progress.” 

                                                             -  Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Getting back on track 

As a response to the data and trends published in the World malaria report, WHO and the RBM Partnership recently catalyzed “High burden to high impact”, a new approach to get the malaria fight back on track, particularly in countries that carry the highest burden of disease. The approach is founded on 4 pillars:

  1. Political will to reduce malaria deaths
  2. Strategic information to drive impact
  3. Better guidance, policies and strategies
  4. A coordinated national malaria response

Pillar 1 calls on leaders of malaria-affected countries to translate their stated political commitments into resources and tangible actions that will save more lives. To this end, campaigns that engage communities and country leaders – like “Zero malaria starts with me” – can foster an environment of accountability and action.

 

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