As I researched the current status of malaria vaccines and their effects on the malaria epidemic, I came across several detailed sources that I believe will help me in communicating first, the positive future of this pre-cure to my audience and, secondly, how greater funding can speed its delivery to communities in need.
After extensive reading, I learned that the vaccine closest to the production phase is RTS,S. In the third phase of its clinical trial, it has shown effective results in children five to seventeen months of age. Since the largest population at risk for malaria is children under five, this age category (5-17 months old) will offer the greatest preventative protection.
The New England Journal of Medicine details the current results (as of October 27, 2010) of the RTS,S vaccine in its article, “Efficacy of RTS,S/AS01E Vaccine against Malaria in Children 5 to 17 Months of Age.” The research was supported by grants from the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals and discusses both the efficacy and safety of the future vaccine.
The article details the findings recorded in the following data chart.
It compares and contrasts the percentage of clinical malaria outbreaks in the control group (given a rabies vaccine) with the RTS,S vaccinated group over the course of eight months.
The importance of this grouping of data is to point toward the near 50% efficacy of the vaccine’s current state. Although it does not reach the preferred 90% rate of effectivity, it still carries great merit against malaria. It can save lives, and, in time, it will save lives – part of the hopeful message I wish to convey to my audience.
Other articles boast the same stunning news regarding the vaccine in action:
- UNC School of Medicine, “First results from ongoing Phase III trial show malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S* reduces the risk of malaria by half in African children aged 5 to 17 months“
- MVI (Malaria Vaccine Initiative) from PATH, “Fact Sheet: Phase III safety and efficacy trial of the RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate“
These additional and repetitive sources further validate the information concerning the RTS,S vaccine. Many of the sources cite PATH as a main contributor in the research and work behind the scenes. PATH is an internationally esteemed nonprofit organization that creates sustainable solutions to longstanding cycles of poor health in developing countries by “advancing technologies, strengthening systems, and encouraging healthy behaviors.” And PATH uses “innovative funding” to make these solutions a reality, as is the current storyline with the RTS,S malaria vaccine.
Another aspect of data that is necessary to understand how the current vaccine is making a difference, even though it is not yet in production, is the sheer size of the population participating in the clinical study. PATH’s article, “African researchers at forefront of partnership,” describes the seven African countries and their inhabitants that are making the Phase III trial possible and paving the path for the future of the RTS,S vaccine.
Every child represents a set of parents taking the risk to enroll their offspring in the clinical study with the hopes that a effective vaccine will be produced to offer their country and community a better future.
With sub-Sahara Africa housing the greatest percentage of malaria outbreaks each year and bearing the greatest global malarial burden (71% of worldwide cases and 85.7% of worldwide deaths according to WHO (World Health Organization) and Roll Back Malaria’s “Regional Strategies“), it is in need of the most aid and funding. And yet, Africa itself is has taken a great stance against malaria in participating with PATH and other organizations to find a solution.
WHO (World Health Organization) and Roll Back Malaria has put forth a great amount of research into the four malaria-endemic regions of the world, comparing the cumulative cases of malaria and deaths caused by malaria in each region, as well as summarizing the funding available and needed to combat malaria in each region. These statistics, outlined in their GMAP (Global Malaria Action Plan) and Regional Strategies give the public a better handle on the actual monetary figure of what is needed to make “malarial elimination” a future for these countries and what this funding can realistically change.
The following data tells a story (yet, in its current form, is hard to decipher and grasp). It outlines first the need in Table 1 (the annual costs incurred in Africa for malaria prevention and education). Following the need, the data in Table 2 & 3 displays the current funding given towards the malaria epidemic by each region (and the great amount of funding that is still needed to move forward in the GMAP). Next, it shows how, in Table 4, if these needed funds were procured, there would be a significant decrease in malaria mortality, the point of the plan in short. And, finally, according to Table 5, the financial gifts offered now will positively affect the economy in the long run.
As Bill Gates put it so simply, “I believe that if you show people a problem, and then you show them the solution, they will be moved to act.”
The GMAP outlines both
(1) the problem (the global malaria burden) and
(2) the need (greater financial funding).
(3) The solution to fulfill that need and thus solve that problem is illuminated through the vaccine’s positive results and the current participation in making this vaccine a reality.
However, this information should be presented more clearly and eloquently to the public so that the problem has a fair voice and the solution is given merit and thought — and action.
I believe the solution is greater funding for the vaccine currently in clinical trial. It has the potential, according to research, to eliminate malaria once and for all. If the public could stand financially behind this one aspect of malarial prevention, great change could take place. Therefore, I hope to continue my efforts in communicating this story to the public.