Malaria vaccine pilots to go ahead

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Global Fund and UNITAID join Gavi in funding pilots for RTS,S vaccine

Mosquito malaria

Credit: CDC/2005.

Geneva, 18 November 2016 - Gavi welcomes the announcement by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria that it will complement Gavi’s funding of malaria vaccine RTS,S pilots.

The new pilots, which will be carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO), mark an important step forward for this malaria vaccine candidate. They will evaluate the feasibility of delivering the required four doses of RTS,S, the impact of RTS,S on lives saved and the safety of the vaccine in the context of routine use. It will also assess the extent to which the vaccine’s protective effect can be replicated in real-life settings.

The Gavi Board agreed to provide up to US$ 27.5 million towards the pilots in June 2016, with the condition that the final figure is matched by other donors. UNITAID followed with a commitment of US$ 9.6 million. Today’s decision by the Global Fund Board to approve US$ 15 million for the pilots mean they can now go ahead, with vaccinations beginning in 2018.

Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said: “These pilots are critical to determine whether this vaccine can be rolled out more broadly, adding an important new tool to the proven interventions we already have in the fight against malaria. The Global Fund's commitment marks the beginning of a historic partnership between Gavi, the Global Fund and UNITAID, bringing together three of the world's biggest health financing institutions to tackle one of the leading killers of children."

Clinical trials showed that four doses of the RTS,S vaccine prevented 39% of malaria cases. While the trials left some questions unanswered, as set out by Gavi CEO Seth Berkley and Global Fund Executive Director Mark Dybul last year, the vaccine has the potential to have a significant impact in reducing malaria mortality in Africa.

RTS,S is the first malaria vaccine to successfully complete Phase 3 testing. It was developed through a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a network of African research centres.

The Phase 3 trial enrolled more than 15,000 infants and young children in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Countries that participated in the Phase 3 clinical trials will be prioritised for inclusion in the WHO pilot programme. Consultations are ongoing and the names of the three selected countries will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

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