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10th October 2023 (10 Topics)

Why malaria vaccine can be a game-changer


The R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine developed bythe University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India has been recommended for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for use in Africa for children under five years.

  • It is the age group and the continent that bears the burden of a disease that kills more than 6 lakh people a year. Hence, this vaccine can become a game-changer in eradicating malaria.

Last year, the WHO formally endorsed Mosquirix,the world's first Malaria vaccine for the disease that was developed by GSK Plc and its partners.


About R21 vaccine:

  • The R21, otherwise referred to as Matrix-M malaria vaccine, is the second vaccine ever developed for a disease.
  • Since 2015, 9 countries have been certified by the WHO Director-General as malaria-free, including Maldives, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Paraguay, Uzbekistan, Argentina, Algeria, China (2021) and El Salvador (2021).

Malaria burden across the World:

  • According to the latest World malaria report, there were 247 million cases of malaria in 2021 compared to 245 million cases in 2020.
  • In 2022 there were over 45 thousand  cases of malaria reported in India.
  • Children under five years of age accounted for about 80 per cent of all malaria deaths in the WHO African Region. 

About Malaria:

  • It is a mosquito-borne blood disease caused by plasmodium protozoa.
  • The parasites spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • Cause: It is a life threatening disease caused by plasmodium parasites.
  • Transmission:
    • The parasites spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
    • In the human body, parasites initially multiply in liver cells and then attack the Red Blood Cells (RBCs).
    • There are 5 parasite species that cause Malaria in humans and 2 of these species (Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax) pose the greatest threat.

Why it is difficult to develop a vaccine?

  • The parasites that cause the deadly disease are prone to mutations that allow them to develop resistance to treatments.

Initiatives against Malaria

  • Global Initiatives:
    • The WHO has also identified 25 countries with the potential to eradicate malaria by 2025 under its ‘E-2025 Initiative’.
    • The WHO’s Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030 aims to reduce malaria case incidence and mortality rates by at least 40% by 2020, at least 75% by 2025 and at least 90% by 2030 against a 2015 baseline.
    • WHO has initiated the High Burden to High Impact (HBHI) initiative in 11 high malaria burden countries, including India.
    • Implementation of “High Burden to High Impact (HBHI)” initiative has been started in four states i.e. West Bengal and Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • India’s Initiatives:
    • The Government of India set a target to eliminate malaria in India by 2027.
    • It developed a National Framework for Malaria Elimination (2016-2030)
    • National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination for 5 years.
    • It shifted focus from Malaria control to elimination.
    • It provided a roadmap to end malaria in 571 districts out of India’s 678 districts by 2022.
    • Malaria Elimination Research Alliance-India (MERA-India)
    • Established by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)

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