Could There Be a Malaria Vaccination by 2015?

I woke up the first day somewhat achy and feverish. I shrugged it off as just another bug that one picks up while living in East Africa. It will pass; I’ll just stay in bed. The next day it was worse, and I vowed to head to the clinic at some point, too exhausted to tackle Kampala traffic, I decided it was better to keep hydrated and simply sleep it off. The third day, I went to reach for my phone and, despite it being just a few feet away, I could not make it off the bed.

Malaria begins with symptoms that mirror the common flu. Most adults are familiar with that feeling, it’s something most of us have worked through, and is fairly easy to shrug off. It’s not until a few days later that malaria shifts tactics and hits like a freight train, incapacitating any ability you might have had to seek treatment. This is when it becomes deadly. For me, it took approximately three days.

In sub-Saharan African nations, Asia and South America, people spend lifetimes in malarial cycles. “I haven’t got it for three years,” a driver in Uganda shared, “so that’s not too bad.”

In developing nations, a cure for malaria is often kept in every well-stocked pharmacy. Coartem, and its 4 tablets per dose, are usually enough to bring people back to feeling human within 48 hours. Self-test strip tests, also widely available, are an easy and reliable way of determining if it is malaria, or some other bug floating around.

However, malaria is one of nature’s more resilient parasites, and has no plans on being tackled by a simple combination of chemicals. Rather, it mutates constantly, creating immunities to commonly prescribed drugs.

The reasons are complex: first, people who don’t have access to malaria tests still often have access to the life saving drugs. So when any flu type symptoms begin to occur, they begin their pills. With so many tropical diseases floating around in many of these areas, it is easy to mistake one illness with another. In fact, in some areas of sub-Saharan Africa, “malaria” has become synonymous with “sick.” Someone with typhus? They have malaria. Someone with cholera? Malaria.

When incorrect drugs are administered, the parasites begin to form resistances, and it is in this gray zone that we uncover an immensely daunting health issue.

The truth is, malaria will probably adapt to whatever drug we throw at it. The only real solid solution these days comes in the form of a vaccine.

While the idea of a malaria vaccine has been scoffed at, there is a vaccine development roadmap available, funded primarily by the WHO, which seeks to eradicate our vulnerability to this parasite.

Launched in 2006, there are currently 20 malaria vaccine trials. The most advanced, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, MVI, and GlaxoKleinSmith Biologicals, is nearly 5-10 years ahead of the other vaccines in clinical trials. RTS,S/AS01, which is currently in Phase 3 of its tests, has shown some promising statistics.

In infants, there was a 55 percent drop in malaria cases and a 47 percent drop in life threatening incidents. While vaccinations given to older children saw a drop in efficacy, it still helped reduce malaria by 30 percent. These numbers aren’t huge, but they are substantial in terms of research. In areas of the world where malaria takes out infants at staggering rates, reducing that possibility by 50 percent matters to their families and communities.

In should also be noted that in later trials, certain groups showed a 77 percent rate of coverage, meaning that tackling and studying other environmental factors at play could contribute significantly to eliminating this deadly disease.

Since this vaccine is already in the Phase 3 trial, it means that it could be ready for distribution by 2015. A number of safety regulations, including long-term use and licensure have to be met by the UN and WHO before it can be distributed widely. However, this would be a monumental step in science.

Vaccines are available for viruses and bacteria, but if this vaccine is approved, it will be the first vaccine against a parasitical infection. It’s an incredibly important scientific step and could change the landscape of malarial regions forever.

73 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks for the article.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson2 years ago

We need more bats. They eat more mosquitoes than birds.

pam w.
pam w.2 years ago

I contribute to an organization which provides free mosquito netting, which is a big help. But malaria is NOT just a matter of ''cleaning up."

People in downtown Nairobi get bitten! And it's a modern city....

Shan D.
Shan D.2 years ago

"The way to control malaria is not by a shot its by better hygene and cleaning up your enviorment." (Jamie C.)

Jesus F. Christ, another ignorant anti-vaxxer. Please do NOT let this turn into another 2700-post thread like the other one. Jamie, you and your cohorts are completely clueless about how you get malaria, aren't you? You could have the most spic and span house ever, and all it takes for you to get malaria and maybe die from it is a mosquito bite.

A malaria vaccine would save so many lives, but I guess none of you anti-vaccine zealots care about that since most of those lives aren't "First World" lives. How pathetic and selfish can you get?

Care2 used to have mosquito nets as one of the things we could redeem Butterfly points for. They need to bring that back.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Malaria will be a very hard thing to conquer with a shot is my guess. There are too many strains. But we shall see.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

Yeah they wont crawl out from under that rock over there becasue they think its THEIR privarte blog LOLOL But I am sure once the other one gets reprrimanded for name calling which eventually he will I am sure….. you can be rest assure they will be hunting other vaccine threads to jump into. LOLOLOl

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Naaaah, Linda M, they're both over in the other discussion about vaccinations, but one of them has had 95% of her posts deleted, the other one still going strong and still insulting everyone who disagrees with him.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 2 years ago

Where have all the anti vaccine folks gone...back under their rock?

pam w.
pam w.2 years ago

The common mosquito is the most dangerous animal in the world!

Alice B.
Alice B.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing !!