You don’t need a medical degree to know that malaria is unpleasant––in fact, it’s often lethal. It’s classified today as “very rare” in the United States (fewer than 20,000 cases a year), but it remains a problem for much of the world. Fortunately, we have some good news on that front.
Scientists from the University of Oxford have recently developed the most effective vaccine yet. Experts are even calling its effects “unprecedented,” which might be the first time in a year they’ve used the word to describe anything other than the pandemic. A clinical trial revealed that it could protect young children from Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, against the disease with 77 percent efficacy, the first to surpass the World Health Organization’s standard of 75 percent. It is, without a doubt, a major accomplishment in the medical world.
The feat becomes just the more impressive when you consider that fact that malaria is caused by a parasite, not a virus. This makes it more challenging for professionals to develop a practical vaccine, let alone one with a success rating of 77 percent. Past vaccines have only managed to average around 43 and 50 percent.
The next step for the scientists is to determine “whether or not the vaccine is safe and effective enough for distribution.” They’re calling it Phase III, and experts are excited to see what results will surface.
Said Charlemagne Ouédraogo, Minister of Health of Burkina Faso, “Malaria is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Africa. We have been supporting trials of a range of new vaccine candidates in Burkina Faso and these new data show that licensure of a very useful new malaria vaccine could well happen in the coming years. That would be an extremely important new tool for controlling malaria and saving many lives.”