A statement released Thursday, Ghanaian officials have approved the use of a new malaria vaccine developed by Oxford University in that country, a first for the much-touted vaccine.
The R21/Matrix-M vaccine, created by Oxford University scientists and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, “has been approved for use in children aged 5-36 months, the age group most at risk of death from malaria,” according to a statement from the University.
“It is hoped that this crucial first step will enable the vaccine to help Ghanaian and African children effectively fight malaria,” it said.
Malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes, killed 627,000 people – mostly African children – in 2020 alone.
Oxford researchers had already voiced optimism about the vaccination in September 2022.
The Ghanaian approval “marks the culmination of 30 years of malaria vaccine research at Oxford, with the design and availability of a highly effective vaccine that can be delivered on an adequate scale to the countries that need it the most,” said Adrian Hill, head of the R21/Matrix-M program at Oxford.
He describes it as “a low-dose vaccine that can be manufactured on a large scale and at a low cost, providing hundreds of millions of doses to African countries with high malaria burdens.”
The vaccine comprises Matrix-M adjuvant, a vaccine component developed by Novavax and also used in the Covid vaccination by the US biotechnology business.
In 2021, another vaccine, produced by British pharmaceutical giant GSK, became the first malaria vaccine to be recommended for widespread use by the World Health Organization (WHO). But research has shown that the effectiveness of GSK’s vaccine was about 60% and declined significantly over time, even with a booster dose.
According to a study published in 2021, Oxford’s R21/Matrix-M vaccine was 77% effective in preventing malaria. This was the first time a vaccine exceeded the WHO efficacy target of 75%.