Infant malaria shot results called unacceptably low

The world’s first experimental malaria vaccine produced disappointing results in a large-scale test among African infants, raising questions about its potential for fighting the disease.

The vaccine, promoted as a new weapon in the malaria fight, reduced the risk of malaria by only 30 percent. The study involved more than 6,500 babies aged 6 to 12 weeks.

The results, released Friday, showed the vaccine providing less than half the protection it did in a previous smaller trial involving infants. The report said the modest protection the vaccine, which is also known as RTS,S or Mosquirix, has been provided in this latest trial was also lower than the 50 percent reported last year among older children.

Dr. Jennifer Cohn, a doctor with Doctors Without Borders, said that the vaccine’s effectiveness was unacceptably low.

Vaccinating babies is seen as a more cost effective way of battling the disease since it could be added to the regimen of other infant vaccinations.

Billionaire Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation is helping fund the vaccine, said the effectiveness rate came back lower than hoped.

But the top British drug manufacturer developing the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), will continue its efforts. Chief executive Andrew Witty said the drugmaker remains convinced the vaccine has a role to play in tackling malaria.

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