Rwandan children will be among the first in Africa to benefit from a malaria vaccine, following a successful medical research.
The vaccine has been proven to give significant protection against clinical and severe malaria while showing an acceptable safety profile.
Scientists say that experiments on the vaccine so far offer decent results and renewed hope.
The Director General of Malaria unit in TRAC Plus, Dr Corine Karema, said: “The vaccine is the first of its kind to successfully pass trial. It’s in Phase III and, so far, it’s registering remarkable interim results.
“The vaccine is at 55 percent of protective efficacy against plasmodium falciparum, which is the parasite responsible for more than 98 percent of malaria cases in Rwanda”.
The vaccine dubbed RTS, S, is expected to be finalized by 2014.
“This partially protective vaccine is not, for the moment, the sole solution to eliminating malaria. Rwanda has adopted measures, including the widespread coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets,” Dr Karema added.
She noted that malaria incidence in the country had reduced by about 70%, while malaria morbidity and mortality fell by 60%, over the last five years.
“Final results of this vaccine's phase III trial will be available in 2014, meaning that it should be available between three to four years, depending on WHO approval,” she observed.
Although Rwanda is interested in the vaccine, Karame said that there are additional questions to be looked into, including the duration of the vaccine, particularly in the Rwandan context where malaria is declining, and if the vaccine is cost effective.
“We are interested in undertaking a research to answer those questions,” she said.
The vaccine aims at triggering the immune system to defend against plasmodium falciparum parasite when it first enters the host’s bloodstream.
It is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the liver, and from re-entering the bloodstream and infecting red blood cells, at which point the affected person would begin to show symptoms of the disease, according to scientists.