Affordable Malaria Vaccine to Launch in Africa in May, Aiding in Fight Against Deadly Disease

Affordable Malaria Vaccine to Launch in Africa in May, Aiding in Fight Against Deadly Disease


One of the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers is set to introduce a cost-effective new malaria vaccine in Africa starting in May, which will significantly strengthen efforts to combat one of the most fatal infectious diseases. Malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, claims over 600,000 lives annually, with 95 percent of the fatalities occurring in Africa, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The disease is particularly devastating for young children, with nearly half a million African children under the age of five succumbing to malaria each year. The Serum Institute of India (SII) is gearing up to distribute 25 million doses of the innovative R21 vaccine, developed in collaboration with researchers from Oxford University.

According to SII CEO Adar Poonawalla, the R21 vaccine is poised to have a significant impact on saving lives. The vaccine will be made available to African nations at a cost of $4 or less in its first year, with the potential for further price reductions as production scales up. The three-dose regimen, along with a booster shot, is specifically tailored for children aged 5-36 months.

This marks the second malaria vaccine to receive approval from the WHO, with researchers highlighting that the R21 vaccine will be more affordable compared to the alternative produced by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The WHO anticipates that the vaccine’s rollout will greatly expand the supply to meet the high demand across African countries.

The SII, recognized as the largest vaccine manufacturer globally, gained substantial prominence following its production of millions of affordable COVID-19 vaccine doses for global distribution during the peak of the pandemic. With the decline in demand for coronavirus vaccines, the institute has repurposed its facilities to combat other diseases at its expansive manufacturing complex in Pune, near Mumbai.

The R21 vaccine doses are meticulously prepared at the production facility, undergoing stringent quality checks before being packaged for export. Poonawalla envisions introducing the vaccine in a few countries prior to the onset of the main malaria season in approximately six to seven months, targeting the most vulnerable populations.

SII’s research and development director, Umesh Shaligram, mentioned that the vaccines will be dispatched by the end of April, with distribution expected to commence by May and June. The majority of the vaccines will be procured and disseminated through UNICEF and Gavi, a global vaccine alliance.

The initial recipients of the R21 vaccine will be Chad, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Mozambique, and South Sudan, with plans for Uganda and Nigeria to implement it later in the year. SII aims to ramp up production to reach an annual output of 100 million R21 doses, underscoring its commitment to combating malaria in Africa and beyond.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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