Called Mosquirix, the new vaccine is given in three doses between ages 5 and 17 months, and a fourth dose roughly 18 months later. Following the clinical trials, the vaccine was tried out in three countries — Kenya, Malawi and Ghana — where it was incorporated into routine immunization programs.
More than 2.3 million doses have been administered in those countries, reaching more than 800,000 children. That bumped up the percentage of children protected against malaria in some way to more than 90 percent from less than 70 percent, Dr. Hamel said.
“The ability to reduce inequities in access to malaria prevention — that’s important,” Dr. Hamel said. “It was impressive to see that this could reach children who are currently not being protected.”
It took years to create an efficient system to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets to families. By contrast, making Mosquirix a part of routine immunization made it surprisingly easy to distribute, Dr. Hamel added — even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted lockdowns and disrupted supply chains.
“We aren’t going to have to spend a decade trying to figure out how to get this to children,” he said.
This week, a working group of independent experts in malaria, child health epidemiology and statistics, as well as the W.H.O.’s vaccine advisory group, met to review data from the pilot programs and make their formal recommendation to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the W.H.O.
The next step is for Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, to determine that the vaccine is a worthwhile investment. If the organization’s board approves the vaccine — not guaranteed, given the vaccine’s moderate efficacy and the many competing priorities — Gavi will purchase the vaccine for countries that request it, a process that is expected to take at least a year.