Here’s my latest post from my Global Studies class. I know I’ve been slacking and still need to post about the Global Development Organization’s amazing field trip to aid agencies in D.C. As soon as my midterms are over I’ll get on that, these college tests are a killer! In the meantime, enjoy this post about potential progress in putting a malaria vaccine on the market by 2015.
“When I was on Twitter this morning a post about a new malaria vaccine caught my eye. I decided to look into it a little more for this week because I think that this is a huge issue in African healthcare and lessening the chances of contracting malaria would greatly improve the quality of life for many Africans.
When I was travelling in Africa this summer I experienced the fear of malaria first hand; I took pills everyday, always wore insect repellent, and slept under a net every night. However so many of the people I was interacting with didn’t have those same abilities, all of those things cost money that many people don’t have to spare. The school I worked at spoke of malaria as a common occurrence; kids missed school often because of it and would then only be able to afford enough medicine to make the symptoms go away, but not the actual parasite which can be dangerous.
Knowing what a big deal malaria is, this new vaccine excited me. I did some reading about it from The Guardian, The Washington Post, and the New England Journal of Medicine. They all had similar points and referenced each other because only so many places have information on the new vaccine possibility since it was just recently released. This vaccine has been in development for over two decades by GlaxoSmithKline, and they are finally reaching a breakthrough. A large-scale case study has been started in Burkina, Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania to see if this vaccine is actually feasible to treat malaria over a wide geographical area.
Not all data has been collected yet because they are still monitoring the initial study group, but there should be conclusive data in the next few years. The World Health Organization has even stated that this vaccine could be recommended as an addition to the infant immunization series as soon as 2015. The initial results show that the vaccine isn’t a cure or a 100% prevention solution, but it severely diminishes the number of severe cases of malaria that are contracted by children, and the number of times it is contracted. The study stated that for every 1000 children given the vaccine there were 750 cases of malaria, but this is much lower than the 1500 cases per 1000 children among the control group.
While this definitely isn’t a perfect solution, it is a huge leap forward from where malaria control is today. The disease is treatable and preventable, but it still kills 800,000 people a year, most of whom are under the age of 5. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent diseases because they don’t require the upkeep of other methods such as bed nets or insecticide spraying. Don’t get me wrong, these still have a huge place in malaria prevention, this vaccine would just make them not quite as necessary. When used in combination though, child mortality would most likely see a huge decline in the coming years.
Some concerns the articles raised were about how the vaccine would be paid for. While GlaxoSmithKline has pledged to keep the cost low, only about 5% higher than manufacturing cost (difference will be reinvested in further prevention research), it might still be a cost too high for Africans who don’t often have money to spare. Will aid organizations and private donors be willing to cover the costs to immunize children? Also what about the adult? While the most severe cases are children, adults are still highly effected by malaria, and it often puts them out of work for multiple weeks a year. If a solution could also be created to lower malaria in adults it would create a much more productive society because families would be able to continuously earn income and save money since it wouldn’t need to be spent on emergency medical care.”