HEADLINES Published October23, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

WHO Calling for More Study of New Malaria Vaccine

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A mother and her children in Sudan await treatment for malaria.
(Photo : Spencer Platt, Getty Images )

The World Health Organization is asking for pilot studies of the new malaria vaccine Mosquirix before it is put into widespread use.

WHO has questions about the vaccines efficacy and practicality, given that it is only 30% effective and requires four shots. Vaccine experts who advise the World Health Organization have recommended that further studies are needed on the vaccine to determine if the logistics of administering all four doses of the vaccine are workable in poor countries.

Mosquirix has been recommended for approval by European health authorities despite the low effectiveness. Jon Abramson, chair of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, said if health workers are not able to give children four shots of the vaccine within the required 18 months "we're not going to be using it." Abramson said that experts are recommending that there should be three to five demonstration projects of the vaccine in children aged 5 to 17 months before considering its wider use. These projects could involve up to 1 million children and take several years to run.

The WHO's decision is likely to delay a possible broad roll-out of Mosquirix by up to 5 years.  Mosquirix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, could help prevent millions of cases of malaria in young children in Africa, but it is less effective than vaccines against many other diseases and there is uncertainty as to whether developing countries can effectively administer the four doses needed.

If a child does not get all four shots, the vaccine is even less effective. The problem is getting the child back to a clinic for all four shots, which can be challenging in Africa. The vaccine costs $20 for all four shots.

This year alone, there have been an estimated 214 million new cases of malaria, with around 438,000 deaths.

The experts also made recommendations for a new Ebola vaccine, but those are contingent on that vaccine being approved. Abramson said they provisionally advise vaccinating health workers in an Ebola outbreak but noted that any regulatory decision is probably several months away.

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