UNICEF awards $170m malaria vaccine contract to GSK

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United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has awarded a contract for the first-ever supply of a malaria vaccine to GSK with a value of up to $170 million.

GSK Plc, formerly GlaxoSmithKline plc, is a British multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company with global headquarters in London, England. Established in 2000 by a merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham.

UNICEF in a statement issued from New York on Tuesday said the landmark award would lead to 18 million doses of RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of lives every year.

In 2020, nearly half a million children died from malaria in Africa alone, a rate of one child death per minute.

Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF’s Supply Division said the vaccine rollout would give a clear message to malaria vaccine developers to continue their work because malaria vaccines are needed and wanted.

“We hope this is just the beginning. Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market.

“This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

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According to WHO data, more than 30 countries have areas with moderate to high malaria transmission, where the vaccine could provide added protection against malaria to over 25 million children each year once supply scales up.

The RTS,S malaria vaccine is the result of 35 years of research and development and is the first-ever vaccine against a parasitic disease. The vaccine acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.

In 2019, pilot routine vaccine use was launched in three countries – Ghana, Kenya and Malawi – as part of the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme coordinated by WHO.

The experience and evidence generated by the pilots informed WHO’s recommendation in October 2021 for widespread use of the first malaria vaccine in countries with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.

Soon after, in December 2021, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s decision to provide funding for malaria vaccine programmes in eligible countries opened the pathway for broader roll-out of the vaccine.

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