World's first malaria vaccine hits financing roadblock

As the World Health Organization continues its rollout of the first authorized malaria vaccine, one of the key investors has pulled out because of the vaccine's low efficacy, according to The Washington Post.

The WHO recommended the "groundbreaking" vaccine for widespread deployment among children in sub-Saharan Africa in fall 2021, about two years after the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine, called Mosquirix, was introduced. Mosquirix, a four-dose regimen, is 30 percent effective against deadly severe malaria, which the WHO labels as a "significant reduction."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation doesn't agree. 

After investing about $200 million over many years into Mosquirix, the Gates Foundation's director of malaria programs, Philip Welkhoff, PhD, said it isn't cost-effective anymore and the organization won't continue funding the vaccine supply, according to the Post

Health experts expressed worry about the foundation's decision to back out. 

"It's not the greatest vaccine in the world, but there are ways of using it that could have a big impact," Alister Craig, PhD, dean of biological sciences at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the U.K., told the Post. "It's not like we have a lot of other alternatives. There could be another vaccine approved in about five years, but that's a lot of lives lost if we wait until then."

As of July 21, about 1.3 million children have received the malaria vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, the three African countries chosen to pilot the rollout, according to the WHO. Dr. Welkhoff told the Post the Gates Foundation will continue to support the organization that is spearheading that rollout.

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