The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the second vaccine for malaria, which is named R21/Matrix-M and is developed jointly by the Oxford University and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
The SII, the world's largest vaccine-maker by doses, is set to manufacture 100 million doses of the vaccine as a licence-manufacturer.
The foremost benefit of this vaccine is that it's cheaper than the first and is more effective. The affordability would ensure increased access for the most vulnerable communities in Africa that suffer from malaria. It is estimated that around half a million die from malaria annually, mostly young children and pregnant women.
The WHO's approval means that the countries across the world can now consider the vaccine safe to use. The vaccine has already been approved in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The R21 vaccine has a three-dose regime followed by a booster 12 months after the third dose.
While R21 is the second vaccine is to be approved, it is the only one to meet the WHO's expectation of 75 per cent efficacy. The first vaccine to be approved in 2021 had an efficacy of just around 30 per cent.
Following WHO's approval, the SII said in a statement that it has a capacity to produce 100 million doses a year which would be doubled next year.
"The Serum Institute has already established production capacity for 100 million doses per annum, which will be doubled over the next two years. This scale of production is critical because vaccinating those at high risk of malaria will be important in stemming the spread of disease, as well as protecting the vaccinated," said SII in a statement, adding that the roll-out after few more regulatory clearances is expected early next year.
Previously, the SII was key to the Indian Covid-19 vaccination programme and vaccination in the developing world as it license-produced the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which emerged as the most suitable because of its affordability and scaled-up manufacturing.
Nature reported that the SII-made R21 vaccine is expected to cost $2-4 a dose whereas the currently available vaccine, developed by pharmaceutical major GSK, costs around $9. The Oxford-SII malaria vaccine has an added advantage over the GSK vaccine as it has longer protection. The Associated Press (AP) notes that protection from the GSK jab fades within months. The SII had the protection from its vaccine lasts for over a year.
"In a previous Phase IIb clinical trial conducted in Burkina Faso, Oxford researchers and their partners reported 2-year efficacy and showed that that a booster dose of R21/Matrix-M™ maintained high efficacy against malaria and continued to meet the World Health Organization’s Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap goal of a vaccine with at least 75 per cent efficacy. This followed earlier results from the same trial reporting 1-year efficacy of 77 per cent," said SII in a statement.
Experts have said that while this malaria vaccine could play a key role in containing malaria, it is on its own not a defining element in malaria-eradication. They say other malaria-containment measures need to continue and ramped up along with the roll-out of the vaccination programmes.
"Observers heralded the announcement, but warned the vaccine was 'no magic bullet' in the fight against malaria and that it should be used in tandem with other measures, such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor spraying to prevent the disease," noted Guardian.