Ghana has given regulatory clearance to a new malaria vaccine developed by Oxford University scientists. The West African country is the first in the world to approve the use of the R21/Matrix-MTM serum, the university said on Thursday.
The vaccine has been endorsed by Ghana’s drug regulator, the Food and Drugs Authority, “for use in children aged five to 36 months, the age group at the highest risk of death from malaria.”
Severe Malaria Observatory data has shown that Ghana is one of the 15 countries with the highest malaria burden in the world, accounting for 4.3% of cases in West Africa. In 2021, it was estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the country recorded over 5 million cases of malaria and more than 12,000 fatalities as a result.
The approval of the Oxford malaria vaccine, which was manufactured using Novavax’s adjuvant technology, has been hailed as a significant step forward in the global fight against the mosquito-borne disease.
“This marks a culmination of 30 years of malaria vaccine research at Oxford,” said Adrian Hill, chief investigator of the R21/Matrix-M program, as he applauded clinical trial partners in Africa.
Hill noted the vaccine has a production agreement with the Serum Institute of India for up to 200 million doses per year, and that the WHO is still evaluating its safety and effectiveness. The Oxford scientist stated that African regulators have become more proactive, recognizing the importance of prioritizing public health in their respective countries.
According to Oxford University, the low cost and high scalability of the “low-dose” R21/Matrix-M vaccine make it a viable option for mass production and distribution to African nations grappling with the devastating impact of malaria. Clinical trials for the vaccine have reportedly taken place in the UK, Thailand, and several African countries, including a 4,800-child phase III trial in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, and Tanzania.