The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
World’s First Malaria Vaccine Begins Pilot Program in Malawi
The world's first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi on Tuesday, NPR reported. It's an important day in health history. Not only is it the first malaria vaccine, it's the first vaccine to target any human parasite.
The vaccine is the result of a more than 30-year effort by the World Health Organization (WHO), the non-profit PATH, the pharmaceutical GlaxoSmithKline and several African countries to save same of the more than 250,000 children who die of malaria on the continent each year, according to WHO. It cost more than $500 million, and is one of few vaccines launched specifically to help African children, PATH's Deborah Atherly told NPR.
"It's a pro-poor vaccine, if you will," Atherly said. "I think that's also a really important milestone in vaccine development and introduction."
Toddlers began receiving the vaccine, called RTS,S, on Tuesday. Similar pilot programs will start in Kenya and Ghana soon, reaching a total of about 360,000 children across the three countries each year.
The vaccine is not as effective as other childhood vaccines, which can offer more than 90 percent protection. In clinical trials, it reduced malaria cases by 40 percent and severe cases by 30 percent.
"But it is very important to bear in mind that 40% protection in the most endemic part of the world, Africa, is better than no protection at all. Ultimately, this is the only vaccine that has some efficacy that we currently have and has taken decades to develop, this is in itself good news," Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute senior scientist Alena Pance told CNN.
International Vaccine Access Center Director William Moss told NPR the vaccine could save one life for every 200 children who receive it.
It is also an important tool because progress made against malaria has stalled in recent years. The number of cases fell by 41 percent between 2000 and 2015, but climbed from 217 million to 219 million between 2016 and 2017.
"It's a difficult disease to deal with. The tools we have are modestly effective but drugs and insecticides wear out — after 10, 20 years mosquitoes become resistant. There's a real concern that in 2020s, [cases] are going to jump back up again," University of Oxford genetics professor Adrian Hill told CNN.
WHO also estimates that an additional 60,000 people will die every year from malaria between 2030 and 2050 due to climate change. Rising temperatures can lengthen the transmission period and extend the geographic range of disease-carrying organisms like mosquitoes. Flooding, like the kind caused in Malawi by Cyclone Idai last month, can also increase the breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The new vaccine will not replace WHO's other efforts against malaria, like insecticide-treated netting, indoor insecticide spraying and early testing and treatment. Instead, the organization sees it as another tool.
"This is a day to celebrate as we begin to learn more about what this tool can do to change the trajectory of malaria through childhood vaccination," WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said.
The vaccine needs to be administered in four doses, the first three when the child is between five and nine months old and the fourth when they are around two.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dan Gray
- Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
- A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
- It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.
New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.
By Jeff Turrentine
Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.
By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?