One of the most alarming aspects of the malaria epidemic is the unfortunate “impoverished cycle” that trails behind it.
Not only is there a growing resistance to current anti-malarial meds, but how would one expect these medications to work if one’s body is not properly nourished to receive them? Lack of nutrition renders these malarial aids unsuccessful; diarrhea expels them from the body before they even have a chance to work.
Malaria is both hard on the economy and on the financial stability of a suffering family. A parent might have to stay home from work to care for a sick child. A child might need to skip school to help support their ill parents. This fiscal problem feeds the cycle of poverty to an unfortunate end. Without a means of financial support, families can neither keep their children well-fed nor can they afford medications to keep them alive. And sadly, one without the other is ineffective and insufficient.
As one of three largest killers, malaria needs an answer. However, the resistance to anti-malarial treatments and the lack of new therapies to replace the old medications are making the answer quite elusive.
One of the most amazing aspects of malaria is the current research in effect to create a vaccine that could help solve this medical and economical crisis. I don’t believe people know that the search for a “pre-cure” is in process (or at least I was not aware of these details regarding malaria myself). With the medical prowess available in our country today, we often take medical miracles for granted and think that the same remedies we receive are an option for all. However, the very basic health care we are privy to, starting at birth, far exceeds that often provided for the population of developing countries. Our privilege protects us in a way. Why do we not seem to take the time to make sure that others receive that same basic, life-sustaining privilege?
As Bob Dickerson from RESULTS.org put it, “There is a problem, but there are “simple solutions in the scheme of things.”
One is by funding and encouraging the research in place to find a viable vaccine for malaria.
A vaccine for malaria is in the works. However, the slow progression of research and trial time puts its market introduction in 2025, nearly 13 years out. In those 13 years, around 3.25 billion people will contract malaria (averaging the 250 million that contract the disease each year). And of those that contract malaria, around 10.4 million will die (averaging the 800,000 each year). Furthering the research is key to beating this illness.
However, lets not forget how far we’ve come. Carla Botting, the Director of Product Development and Access at the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, acknowledges that, “To have a malaria vaccine … make it this far in development is a massive achievement.” And this isn’t to say that vaccine isn’t showing positive results. The vaccine candidate RTS, S reduces the risk of clinical malaria by 47 – 56%. However, for a vaccine to be a viable option on the market, it must be at least 90% effective.
Yet, even with a less productive vaccine, lives can still be saved. If the vaccine can show consistent potency (around the 50% mark) and funding is adequate (more than is available now), it will be released to consumers by 2015. The item missing is the financial funding to make the current vaccine available to the public before another decade of suffering. A lot of funders do not deem the vaccine sufficient enough to warrant their support. And, the sad part is that often promised funding is not delivered, putting the vaccine in jeopardy. Yet, it does not change the fact that its presence can still save lives.
I believe that if this information was properly known, people could use their influence to make this vaccine a reality. They could help spread the word about the work in progress — encouraging their governmental representatives to take an active stance on the issue and educating their peers and the general public to make a difference.
This information regarding the malaria vaccine is trapped within scientific drug reviews and fleeting articles that are elusive to the general public. By making it clear and concise (and applicable in some sense) will allow others to get involved and become a part of this goal to “halt and reverse the spread of malaria.” And by weaving it amidst a story of the cycle of poverty and a need for the saving grace of a vaccine will help the audience to be more committed to the cause.