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RTS,S VaccineA new vaccine known as the RTS,S vaccine is currently being piloted in the African nations of Ghana, Malawi and Kenya.  The RTS,S vaccine has been in development for over 32 years. It is the first malaria vaccine that has been shown to provide young children with partial protection from malaria.

What is Malaria?

Every single year, the malaria virus kills one million people around the world. It is estimated that 300-600 million people suffer from malaria every year. Additionally, 90 percent of malaria cases occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of malaria’s victims are children under the age of five.

According to UNICEF, Malaria kills one child every thirty seconds, which is about 3,000 children every single day. Malaria hinders children’s social development and schooling. Furthermore, malaria is a major cause of poverty. For example, the cost of malaria control and treatment actually slows economic development in Africa by 1.3 percent.

RTS,S Malaria Vaccine Pilots

In clinical trials, the RTS,S vaccine was found to prevent about 4 out of 10 malaria cases. Additionally, it proved to prevent 3 in 10 cases of severe, life-threatening malaria. The malaria vaccine has also been shown to reduce severe malaria anemia by 60 percent. Severe malaria anemia is the most prevalent reason that children die from malaria.

The organizations of Unitaid, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria funded and supported these pilots.

Impact

Currently, an estimated 360,000 children are expected to receive the RTS,S vaccine through immunization programs in certain areas of Malawi, Ghana and Kenya. However, the main weakness of the immunization programs is in how they store and transport the vaccines. The effectiveness of a vaccine is dependent on whether it is in a properly-functioning cold chain. This refers to a system of transporting and storing vaccines at the proper temperatures from when they are manufactured to when they are used.

To ensure that vaccines properly fulfill their duty of vaccinating children from malaria, there needs to be an increased focus on the protection and storage of these vaccines in their proper cold chains. It is vital to invest in proper storage equipment and maintenance of that storage equipment. This equipment will retain the vaccine’s efficacy. It is also crucial to invest in roads and infrastructure so the vaccines can be properly transported to those in need.

Innovation

A technological innovation that has changed and improved the transportation of malaria vaccines is the use of drones. The Rwandan tech firm Zipline has already launched drones that are used to transport medication, vaccines, blood and other essential health care items.

Starting out in Rwanda, the firm has also expanded its lifesaving services into Ghana. The drones fly at 100 kilometers and are able to make deliveries in 30 minutes that otherwise could take five hours by car. The drones also are able to fly through any type of terrain. Therefore, they can easily reach remote villages without requiring any sort of local infrastructure at the scene. ZipLine is able to make up to 500 delivers a day. Thanks to its services, ZipLine has provided 13 million people instant access to urgent, life-saving treatments.

The RTS,S vaccine is an effective vaccine that is vital in protecting young children from malaria. By drastically reducing cases of severe malaria anemia, the RTS,S vaccine is saving lives. To continue saving lives and to further build the efficacy of the vaccine, it is crucial to focus on investing in the proper infrastructure for storage and transportation of the vaccine.

– Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

End_Malaria_Now
Currently, about 250 million people suffer from malaria around the world, with 90 percent of malaria cases occurring in Africa. In addition, every 60 seconds, a child in Africa passes away from malaria.

Linda Penalozo is the regional manager for an organization called End Malaria Now, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the fight against malaria in Africa.

After reaching out to her, Linda Penalozo was gracious enough to answer some questions and provide information about the organization and the exciting new bed net project they are working on.

How did you get involved with End Malaria Now?
I met the organization at Los Angeles Harbor College after making a donation. I researched the organization and I applied for a job. I have been a part of the organization for almost two years and this has been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

Where is your organization currently giving aid to?
In February, we will distribute 10,000 bed nets to heavily affected areas in Kenya.

The bed nets are effective in preventing the spread of these diseases by killing the Aedes-Egypti mosquito with the insecticide that covers them.

Where can myself or other interested parties find more information on End Malaria Now?
You can find more information on malaria and our partners on our website End Malaria Now.

Currently, the organization is partnered with the Division of Malaria Control, Kenyan Sanitation and Medical Services, PSI-Kenya and Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation. By working with these organizations, End Malaria Now has brought the fight against malaria to Sub-Saharan Africa.

What piece of advice would you give to prospective volunteers for End Malaria Now?
I would advise them to devote their time to helping others while they can. Our organization is fighting a great cause and their involvement would facilitate the process of eradicating this deadly disease. Our current and former volunteers gain the value of what their humanitarian efforts can do for those in immediate need.

Robert Cross

Sources: Linda Penalozo—Personal Interview, End Malaria Now
Photo: USAID

facts about malaria
It is well known that mosquitoes carry diseases. Even in developed nations like the U.S., there are yearly warnings of West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but no disease carried by mosquitoes is as widespread as malaria. The following 10 facts about malaria shed some light on the global malaria epidemic, what is being done about it and what the future holds.

 

Top 10 Facts About Malaria

 

1. The word “malaria” means “bad air.” In the 18th century people thought that malaria was caused from breathing in bad air in marshy areas. In 1880 scientists discovered that this was not true, but the name stuck.

2. Malaria is spread by parasites. Five different parasites can cause malaria in humans, but the Plasmodium falciparum parasite is the most deadly. The parasites enter the human bloodstream through the bite of an infected mosquito.

3. Malaria is most commonly found in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Mosquitoes thrive in tropical and subtropical climates, so countries that are near the equator are more at risk. Additionally, many African and Southeast Asian countries have high poverty rates and people do not have access to malaria prevention and treatment, or are not educated on the disease.

4. Malaria can pass from human to human. You cannot “catch” malaria like you can a cold, but people can pass it on by sharing needles, blood transfusions and through pregnancy.

5. When infected with malaria, symptoms can range from none to severe. It can take anywhere from 9-40 days for symptoms to appear. Early symptoms can include fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches, cough and sweating. If not treated within 24 hours the disease can worsen, leading to seizures, impairment of brain and spinal cord function, loss of consciousness and death.

6. Malaria infects an average of 200 million people each year. Up to 1 million of these 200 million will die every year. Of malaria deaths, 90 percent occur in Africa. In Africa one child dies from malaria every minute.

7. There is a cure for malaria. There are different drug treatments available depending on the strain of malaria an individual is infected with. The drugs cure malaria by killing all of the parasites within a person’s bloodstream. However, new waves of drug-resistant malaria are threatening the lives of millions.

8. The best cure for malaria is prevention. There are two major ways that malaria is prevented. Insecticide-treated mosquito netting placed around beds is a good way to keep people safe while they sleep, and spraying a household with residual insecticide will effectively eliminate mosquitos in the house for three to six months.

9. Mortality rates are falling. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen by 42 percent globally. This is largely due to increased prevention and faster testing and treatment to those who are thought to have malaria. By 2015, 52 countries are expected to have reduced their number of malaria cases by 75 percent. In the past four years the countries of Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Turkmenistan and Armenia have been certified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated malaria.

10. There is a promising vaccine currently being tested. While there is currently no vaccine on the market to prevent against malaria, there is one being tested via clinical trial in seven African countries with positive results. Scientists feel very encouraged by this new treatment and the vaccine could be ready for full-time use as early as 2015.

These 10 facts on malaria depict the fact that although malaria is a curable and preventable illness, millions of people still contract it every year. Those who contract it mainly reside in poor countries where access to quality health care and education is more difficult to come by. If these people receive the proper education on malaria, as well as access to medications, then there would be no reason for anyone to be dying from this disease.

— Taylor Lovett

Sources: CDC, Medical News Today, WHO
Photo: Flickr