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First Malaria Vaccine One Step Closer to Saving Lives in Africa

© Flickr / Rod WaddingtonMalaria Patient, Nyangaton, Ethiopia.
Malaria Patient, Nyangaton, Ethiopia. - Sputnik International
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GlaxoSmithKline's Mosquirix was given a positive scientific opinion by the European Medicines Agency, which put the vaccine's safety and effectiveness to the test. It still has a long road ahead, however.

Western regulators have given the green light to the vaccine's developers, who have been waiting for this moment for three decades, BBC News reported.

"This is a dream come true," said Dr. Ripley Ballou, head of research at GSK vaccines.

With the hopes of conquering the deadly parasitic infection that kills over half a million people around the globe each year — the majority of them African children under five years old — Ballou began the first vaccine trials back in 1998.

Partnering with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and receiving a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation contributed to accelerating the vaccine's development.

In 2009, 16,000 children in seven sub-Saharan African countries were recruited for tests at 11 centers. Trials showed mixed final results, which emerged earlier this year.

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The best were within the group of babies aged 5 to 17 months, who were given three shots a month apart and an additional booster dose at 20 months. Four-year supervision marked a 30% decrease in severe Malaria cases in this group.

But scientists concluded that the vaccine had failed at delivering long-lasting positive effects without the crucial booster shots, and couldn't protect young babies from severe cases of Malaria.

It had been hoped that the vaccine could be administered at six, 10 and 14 weeks — in line with other childhood vaccines — but results suggest it should be started later in a child's life, implying added organization and extra costs.

Still, despite the imperfect results, Mosquirix could be vital component to fighting malaria in Africa, which shows alarmingly high rates of disease.

"A bed net is more effective than this vaccine, but nonetheless it is a very significant scientific achievement," commented Professor Adrian Hill of the Jenner Institute at Oxford. "I see it as a building block towards much more effective malaria vaccines in years to come."

The price of the vaccine hasn't yet been unveiled, but GlaxoSmithKline vowed to not pursue profit from it.

The World Health Organization will decide in October whether the imperfect vaccine should be deployed.

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