University of Oxford researchers create malaria vaccine which could drastically reduce child deaths

Malaria booster vaccine shows durable efficacy, study suggests.

A malaria vaccine created by Oxford researchers "is really exciting" and could contribute towards drastically reducing the number of children who die from the infection, experts suggest.

A new study reports on the effectiveness of a malaria booster vaccine which shows long-lasting high efficacy in African children, meeting the World Health Organisation (WHO) specified 75% efficacy goal.

The research found that a vaccine booster dose one year after children received three doses as their primary vaccination regime maintained high efficacy against malaria.

Adrian Hill, Director of the Jenner Institute and Lakshmi Mittal and Family Professor of Vaccinology, University of Oxford, said: "I think this is really exciting - people have been trying to make malaria vaccines for over a century.

The World Health Organisation estimates that malaria caused more than 640,000 deaths in 2020.

"The first clinical trial was in 1940s, 140 different malaria vaccines have been into arms to see if the world can make a vaccine that is useful against malaria.

"We think these data are the best data yet.

"And very importantly, this is a vaccine that we think can be manufactured and deployed, very widely."

He added that the vaccine could be produced for a few dollars a dose, and together with existing measures, like mosquito nets and sprays, could help save children's lives.

Researchers in Oxford say a 70% reduction in deaths could well be feasible.

Prof Hill said: "There's three billion dollars being spent on other interventions, but we definitely don't want to withdraw those or malaria will go back up rapidly.

"We want to add a malaria vaccine on top of nets, on top of spraying, on top of drug preventive treatment.

"And if we can do that, and do it at a grand scale, we really could be looking at a very substantial reduction in that horrendous burden of malaria deaths and disease in the coming years - certainly by 2030.

"That's our goal, to make a big impact, maybe a 70% reduction in deaths, we think that could well be feasible."

The new vaccine meets the World Health Organisation's 75% efficacy goal.

He added: "We hope that this will be deployed and available and saving lives, certainly by the end of next year."

The WHO estimates that malaria caused more than 640,000 deaths in 2020 and progress in reducing malaria mortality has stalled in recent years.

Most deaths are amongst children in Africa where very high transmission rates are found in many countries.