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Editorials Address Prospect Of Malaria Vaccine

“The Sixth Pan African Multilateral Initiative on Malaria, the world’s largest conference on malaria, took place in Durban, South Africa, [last] week, where results from the most clinically advanced trials showed that over 18 months of follow-up, the RTS,S vaccine almost halved the number of malaria cases in young children and reduced by about a quarter the number of malaria cases in infants,” IRIN reports, noting GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which has spent three decades developing the vaccine, intends to apply for regulatory approval with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The following summarizes several editorials addressing the potential malaria vaccine.

  • The Economist: “In children (aged five to 17 months when vaccinated) it reduced the number of cases by 46 percent. In infants (aged six to 12 weeks) it reduced them by 27 percent. And its effect seems to wane,” the editorial notes, adding, “These figures compare with the aspiration, set by a consortium of malaria experts in 2006, to have by 2015 a vaccine that was more than 50 percent protective. RTS,S has not reached that desideratum, but its effects are not negligible.” The editorial concludes, “The big questions, then, are whether RTS,S is effective enough to win approval from the [EMA], whether the WHO will recommend its use, and whether donors will pay for it” (10/12).
  • Financial Times: Noting GSK’s work on the vaccine and the pharmaceutical industry’s so-called “10/90 gap” — “that only 10 percent of research is devoted to treatments for diseases that affect 90 percent of the world’s population,” the editorial states, “[A] glance at Big Pharma’s pipelines shows a distinct bias towards ‘western’ diseases. Yet it is unfair to accuse the industry of not caring.” The editorial highlights work by several other drug companies on neglected diseases and notes “GSK will barely cover its costs on RTS,S.” It concludes, “By persevering with RTS,S, GSK shows that drug companies can do well and do good simultaneously” (10/11).
  • New York Times: “While [the vaccine's] efficacy is modest, it is nonetheless a significant advance in the long struggle to control a disease that kills some 600,000 people a year, mostly children under the age of five,” the editorial states. Noting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund the clinical trials through the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, the editorial writes, “There are still scientific and practical hurdles to surmount — a final judgment on safety and efficacy and an analysis of the public health impact and cost-effectiveness of using this vaccine. With no other broadly tested vaccine on the immediate horizon, we can hope Glaxo’s passes muster” (10/13).