A vaccine to combat the dreadful scourge of malaria may be about to get approval.
After decades of work and countless setbacks, the Jenner Institute and its partners across the globe submitted key data to the World Health Organization in late September. The Oxford team believe their shot is the “best yet” to tackle a disease that still kills more than 600,000 people a year – the vast majority children under five in Africa.
“This is a big moment,” Prof Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute, told the Telegraph at the time. “In many ways, it’s the biggest yet.”
The team is applying for pre-qualification status for R21, which would pave the way for the vaccine to be sent in to battle in malaria hotspots around the world. Already 20 million doses are sitting in crates in a refrigerated warehouse in Pune, India, ready to ship should the WHO give the go ahead.
The vaccine would become only the second to be given the go-ahead to fight the ancient killer, which has been a notoriously difficult adversary due to the malaria parasite’s complicated life cycle and its ability to avoid detection by the immune system.
Data so far looks good. In phase two trials in 450 volunteers in Burkina Faso, R21 was 77 percent effective against the disease in areas where malaria is seasonal, and there were no safety red flags. Further data published in the summer found that a booster dose a year after the initial three shots meant efficacy remained as high as 80 percent 12 months later.
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