Yesterday, a much-anticipated announcement was made on a variety of media outlets – European regulators approved Mosquirix, the first-ever malaria vaccine. Although this is an important first step, it is not the final blow to a disease that infects hundreds of millions and claims around 700,000 lives annually, most of them children under five years. The reported effectiveness of the vaccine appears to be less than 50% and it is unclear how, when or even whether it will be deployed in regions that need it most. The earliest the vaccine will be available is 2017, and even then it will not be the end of malaria. Over 3.2 billion people (close to half of the world’s population) live in regions that are affected by malaria, and the logistics of manufacturing, distributing and administering to that many people are mind-boggling. And even if these can be dealt with, it appears that these same people will need to be re-vaccinated again, mostly because of the nature of the disease and the genetic complexity of the parasite.
Vaccination against malaria remains a critical and noble pursuit. This reported important scientific advancement it is not (yet) a practical solution. In the meantime, hundreds of millions of people will still become infected over the next few years, and life-saving treatment to those who go through episodes of malaria will remain imperative.
We applaud the dedication, creativity and good science shown by the team who worked to make Mosquirix a reality. It is a beginning and what we have learned from them will form the foundation for the next generation of vaccines.