Ghana Approves Lifesaving Vaccine Despite Not Being Fully Approved

[Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

A new vaccine against malaria invented at the University of Oxford has been put to use for the first time in Africa even though testing on it has not been fully completed. The drug will be administered to children between the ages of five months and three years old, the age at which children are most at risk from infection.

“Ghana has become the first country in the world to approve a new malaria vaccine from Oxford University, a potential step forward in fighting a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of children each year.

The approval is unusual as it comes before the publication of final-stage trial data.

It is unclear when the vaccine may be rolled out in Ghana as other regulatory bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are still assessing its safety and effectiveness.

“The WHO can provide support, but it is not an approving institution. The FDA has the mandate as a regulator, and that is what we have done,” Delese Darko, CEO of Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) told Reuters.”

The Washington Post noted that “the new vaccine can be manufactured at large scale and modest cost, its developers say. The Serum Institute of India says it could produce up to 100 million doses depending on demand, which will in turn depend on approval from the WHO.

Ghana’s decision to approve the vaccine quickly was welcomed by health officials on the continent.

″(The) more we wait (the) more we’ll have thousands of children dying from malaria,” said Halidou Tinto, a malaria researcher who is leading the vaccine trial in Burkina Faso.”

Malaria can be prevented and remains treatable, but it also continues as one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. Every year, malaria impacts more than 200 million people, killing roughly 600,000. Over 75 percent of the deaths from the mosquito-spread disease are young children in Africa. 

To understand the scale, a child dies of malaria almost every minute, every day. 

But things are getting better. Voice of America reported, “Despite this bleak news, the outlook for malaria control is promising, thanks to the development of the world’s first malaria vaccine. The World Health Organization calls the achievement a historic breakthrough for science.

A pilot program was started in 2019 in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi. Since then, the World Health Organization reports more than a million children in the three countries have received the malaria vaccine.

Mary Hamel is Head of WHOs Malaria Vaccine Implementation Program. She said the two-year pilot program has shown the vaccine is safe, feasible to deliver and reduces deadly severe malaria.

“We saw a 30% drop in children being brought to the hospitals with deadly, severe malaria. And we also saw almost a 10% reduction in all caused child mortality. If the vaccine is widely deployed, it is estimated that it could save an additional 40 to 80,000 child lives each year,” she said.”

No wonder Ghana would not wait for the WHO. Every minute waited puts future generations at risk. 

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