Dr. Jay Keystone, Director of Travel Health, comments on malaria vaccine report and its relevance to travellers.
The World Health Organization announced that Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi will be the three countries selected to test the world’s first malaria vaccine, the pilot will begin next year. More than 200 million people are infected with malaria each year; of the half a million lives claimed by malaria annually, most are young children. “The latest study of the malaria vaccine that the World Health Organization will be launching in ‘real world’ trials in several African countries is very exciting,” says Dr. Jay Keystone, Travel Health Director at Medisys and one of Canada’s leading authorities on tropical and travel medicine. “Malaria is the primary killer of children in Africa; the fight to end malaria starts with the children”.
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“Although the vaccine is only 30% effective in preventing malaria, it has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives” says Keystone, “but travelers beware! A vaccine for North Americans who do not live in areas of the world where malaria is transmitted would require a vaccine that is almost 100% effective to be protected. So although the vaccine could have a huge impact on controlling malaria in Africa, and saving many lives, travelers to countries where malaria is transmitted will need to continue taking medication to prevent malaria while visiting for many, many years to come”.
The vaccine will be tested on 360,000 children between five to 17 months old across the three selected countries, to see whether the results seen in clinical trials be replicated in real life conditions. The vaccine requires four doses per child, and thus the challenge will also be whether the countries at risk can reliably deliver the required four doses per child on the appropriate vaccination schedule.
In countries where malaria is most prevalent, bed netting and insecticides are the primary measures for protection today. According to the World Health Organization, international travellers could be at risk of malaria infection in 91 countries around the world, mainly in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. If left untreated, malaria can lead to severe complications or death in just a matter of days.. Any fever experienced within three months of possible malaria exposure should be considered a medical emergency and should be investigated immediately.
“Certain travellers, such as babies and young children, pregnant women, and those who are immunocompromised are at particular risk of developing malaria related complications,” says Keystone. Malaria in pregnant women increases the risk of maternal death, miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight. “Prior to visiting any of the 91 countries where malaria can be transmitted, it’s advisable to seek the advice of a travel health professional to ensure that the appropriate preventive measures are taken” advises Keystone. Dr. Keystone is based at the Medisys Travel Health clinic in Toronto at 333 Bay St. Suite 1500. For a list of Medisys travel health clinic locations click here: https://www.medisys.ca/en-ca/contact-map
Read more here: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/24/health/malaria-vaccine-trial-who/