News Release 23-Apr-2021 / University of Oxford
Malaria vaccine becomes first to achieve WHO-specified 75% efficacy goal
Researchers from the University of Oxford and their partners have today reported findings from a Phase IIb trial of a candidate malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, which demonstrated high-level efficacy of 77% over 12-months of follow-up.
When I arrived in Liberia in 1971 as a Peace Corps volunteer, malaria was one of the leading causes of childhood death.
Here are excepts from my memoir about how malaria impacted me and my village during my two year stay.
Part V, Gowee, My Village, Chapter, Mortality and Morbidity.
In September 1972, I entered in my diary, “three babies died in our small community today.” Before coming to Liberia, I had never known of a baby or young child who died. In Gowee, infant mortality remained heartbreakingly commonplace. Not all deaths or their causes could be confirmed, with sketchy data collection coming from nearby walk-in villages. Most likely the death rate was even higher due to under-reporting. Malaria, dysentery, measles, respiratory infections, and malnutrition were some of the main causes of mortality in the Zor Clan. “The starving children in Africa,” as my mom used to say at the dinner table, rang true that day. Due to the high infant death rate, a mother often had up to twelve pregnancies with only five living children. With the unavailability of birth control, pregnancy was easy to achieve. Staying alive was not.
…Despite my compulsion to prevent malaria, I contracted the parasite three times in my two short years. My blood tests confirmed I had contracted three of the four types found in West Africa: Plasmodium vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae. Plasmodium falciparum, which affects the brain, is the deadliest, and the only one I did not contract. All Peace Corps homes had screened windows, but when traveling to areas where I did not have that luxury, I used the dreaded mosquito coil, a form of incense that smoldered throughout the night, releasing a stench of caustic smoke to ward off the insects. Nonetheless, screens and mosquito coils had failed me. Luckily, my three bouts of malaria were successfully treated and placed in remission. Only after leaving a malarial area, can the final medication be given to fully kill the parasite. (After I left Liberia, the mutation of the parasite made the current treatment of chloroquine ineffective and a new medication was prescribed.)
Even today over 270,000 children globally die every year of malaria. This vaccine news is overdue and will improve the healthcare dramatically once implemented.
I welcome your comments in the reply/comments section below.