GSK Gets $170m to Produce World’s First Malaria Vaccine

August 17, 2022
Mosquirix Malaria Vaccine

By Adedapo Adesanya

The pharmaceutical company, GSK, has been awarded a contract to produce the world’s first malaria vaccine so that millions more children will be protected against the killer disease.

This was announced by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The value of the deal is about $170 million and will lead to the production of 18 million doses of the RTS,S vaccine being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of young lives annually.

Malaria remains one of the biggest killers of children under five. In 2020, nearly half a million boys and girls died from the disease in Africa alone, a rate of one death every minute.

The Director of UNICEFOpens, Etleva Kadilli, stated that Opens in new window rollout sends a clear message to malaria vaccine developers to continue their work.

“We hope this is just the beginning. Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market,” she said.

“This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes”.

Malaria is caused by parasites and transmitted to humans through infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. While the disease is preventable and curable, it can be fatal if left untreated.

More than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHOOpens in new window), and the vaccine could provide added protection to more than 25 million children each year once the supply ramps up.

The RTS,S malaria vaccine – the result of 35 years of research and development – is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease.

Business Post had reported that the Pilot programme was launched in 2019, coordinated by WHO, in three countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – and has reached more than 800,000 children.

Last October, the UN health agency recommended Opens in new windowits widespread use in countries with moderate to high malaria transmission.

That December, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, took the decision to provide funding for malaria vaccine programmes in eligible countries, thus opening the pathway for the broader roll-out of the vaccine.

Speaking on this, CEO Mr Seth Barkley reported that Gavi recently opened the “application window” for funding requests.

“Thanks to UNICEF’s procurement work, we now have more certainty on supply and can move a step further towards getting this life-saving vaccine to the people who need it the most. As manufacturing ramps up over time, we hope that increasing volumes will also lead to more sustainable, lower prices,” he said.

Meanwhile, WHO has welcomed progress in securing supply and timely access to the vaccine so that more countries can introduce it as soon as possible.

“Lives are at stake, every day,” said Dr Kate O’Brien, Director of WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, “Given the initial limited supply, it is crucial that children living in areas where the risk of disease and need is highest are prioritized first”.

UNICEF expects that demand for the malaria vaccine will be high among affected countries. As with any new vaccine, supply will be limited at first, the agency said but will increase as manufacturing capacity ramps up over time, which in turn will lead to a decrease in costs per dose.

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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