A malaria vaccine developed by Britain’s Oxford University is to be used in Ghana, the first time it has received regulatory clearance anywhere in the world.
“The vaccine has been approved for use in children aged 5-36 months, the age group at highest risk of death from malaria,” the university said in a statement.
“It is hoped that this first crucial step will enable the vaccine to help Ghanaian and African children to effectively combat malaria,” it added.
Professor Adrian Hill, chief investigator of the R21/Matrix-M vaccine programme and director of the university’s Jenner Institute, said it marked the “culmination of 30 years of malaria vaccine research at Oxford with the design and provision of a high efficacy vaccine that can be supplied at adequate scale to the countries who need it most”.
Last September, Oxford announced that a booster dose of the new malaria vaccine maintained a high level of protection against the disease, expressing hopes that the inexpensive injection could be produced on a large scale in a matter of years.
The international research team suggested the vaccine could represent a turning point in the fight against the mosquito-borne parasitic disease, which killed 627,000 people — mostly African children — in 2020 alone.
Last year, a different vaccine produced by British pharmaceutical giant GSK became the first to be recommended for widespread use against malaria by the World Health Organization, and has now been administered to more than a million children in Africa.
But research has found that the effectiveness of GSK’s vaccine is around 60 percent, and significantly wanes over time even with a booster dose.
Oxford’s R21/Matrix-M vaccine meanwhile was found to be 77 percent effective at preventing malaria in research published last year — the first time the WHO’s roadmap goal of 75 percent had been met.