WHO recommends second malaria vaccine

Newly recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), the new “safe, effective and affordable” malaria vaccine has potential to reduce deaths “by up to a third”.

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends second malaria vaccine

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a new vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, to prevent malaria in children.

The R21 vaccine is the second malaria vaccine recommended by WHO. This follows the WHO’s recommendation of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine for the disease in 2021.

Novavax’s President and Chief Executive Officer, John Jacobs, declared that the company is “proud” of the role of its saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant plays in the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine.

“The demand for malaria vaccines outweighs the supply of the RTS’S vaccine, so having another safe, effective and affordable vaccine available could help protect those living in malaria-endemic areas,” Dr Charlie Weller, Head of Prevention, Infectious Disease at Wellcome commented.

the [R21 malaria] vaccine can be manufactured at mass scale and modest cost”

R21 costs $2 – $4 per dose, WHO stated. This makes it comparable cost-wise with other recommended malaria interventions and other childhood vaccines. Therefore, as the vaccine can be manufactured at mass scale and modest cost, “[it] holds real potential to close the huge demand-and-supply gap. Delivered to scale and rolled out widely, [WHO’s] two vaccines can help bolster malaria prevention and control efforts,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa stated.

Clinical data for the R21 malaria vaccine

Prior clinical data and current evidence from an ongoing R21 vaccine clinical trial demonstrated a high 75 percent effectiveness over 12 months following a 3-dose series, in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania. According to WHO, a fourth dose given twelve months after the third maintained efficacy. This high efficacy is similar to the efficacy demonstrated when RTS,S is given seasonally.  

“… alongside maintaining other core malaria interventions including the provision of insecticide-treated bed nets and chemoprevention [the R21 vaccine] offers the potential to reduce malaria deaths by up to a third and set the world back on track towards the global target of a 90 percent reduction malaria deaths by 2030,” Professor Azra Ghani, Director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, and Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London shared.

Going forward, to facilitate international procurement of the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine, the ongoing World Health Organization prequalification needs to be completed. The R21 vaccine is expected to become available to countries in the middle of 2024.