The announcement of the discovery of the first malaria vaccine not only raises hope in the fight against one of the world’s worst diseases, but also underscores the importance of tackling this catastrophe from all sides.
The message was conveyed by the leader of the Initiative Against Malaria (PMI), Dr. Raj Panjabi. The organization, initiated by the administration of US President Joe Biden, this week unveiled an ambitious plan for the next five years aimed at tackling the disease it describes as the “oldest pandemic.”
Malaria is a parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Most of the victims are children, and most cases of malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
While malaria is not endemic in the US, the Joe Biden administration is prioritizing tackling the disease, said Panjabi, who was appointed global malaria coordinator from PMI in February.
PMI is a US government program aimed at fighting the disease and is under the Agency for International Development or USAID.
“This is the right effort,” he told FLY.
“Too many people, more than 400,000, die every year from malaria. Mostly children. In fact, a child dies every two minutes from this disease. And more than 200 million cases still occur every year. This is the oldest pandemic, it is a pandemic that has killed more children than any other pandemic, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) this week announced a new vaccine that the agency’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said was “a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control”.
“Using this vaccine, coupled with other medical means used to prevent malaria, could save tens of thousands of children’s lives every year.”
The vaccine, which is given in four doses, was developed for children under the age of 2 and has been trialled in three African countries. As a result, the vaccine was able to prevent the patient’s condition from getting worse in 30 percent of the cases tested.
These numbers may sound disappointing, but the vaccine is only one of many tools available to prevent malaria, explains Ashley Birkett, director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative at PATH, a global organization that fights for health equity and is part of the development of this vaccine. for 30 years.
“Thirty percent sounds like a low number, but if you look at the scale of the problem with the fact that we are faced with more than 260,000 children dying from malaria every year, vaccines can be used in conjunction with other tools (to) can offer a new way of protection. This vaccine has the potential to have a significant impact,” Birkett said.
That’s why, Panjabi said, why PMI this week announced a rather ambitious $1 billion-a-year plan with the goal of saving four million lives and preventing one billion infections in the next five years.
“Medical breakthroughs alone are not enough,” Panjabi said. He added that one of the tactics implemented in this plan is to recruit, train, local residents as health workers in their neighborhoods who can carry out tests and deliver medicines to people’s homes. In addition, his party will also continue to develop vaccines, especially in terms of efficacy or effectiveness. (jm / pp)