What is the R21/Matrix-M vaccine? How does it compare to the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine that was approved by WHO in 2021?
R21/Matrix-M is a vaccine against malaria, developed by the University of Oxford in the UK. The vaccine showed an efficacy of 77% in phase 1 and phase 2 trials. The vaccine showed a high efficacy of 80% as a result of a booster dose even after two years.
- Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium group of parasites, commonly spread by the female Anopheles mosquito.
- Malaria is dominantly found in the tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, South America and Asia.
- Its symptoms include fever, tiredness, vomiting and headache.
- It kills nearly 6,00,00 people every year, the majority of whom are children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa.
Vaccines against Malaria:
- Developing a vaccine for malaria has been a top priority for WHO for decades, but given the highly complex life cycle of the parasite, the development of the vaccine was very difficult and took almost 3 decades and $700 million.
- The first vaccine approved by WHO was RTS,S/AS01 (Mosquirix), developed by GlaxoSmithKline in October 2021.
- The vaccine has modest efficacy and reduces severe malaria by about 30%. However, it failed to meet WHO’s own benchmark for malaria vaccine efficacy of 75%.
- R21/Matrix-M is the first vaccine to pass the benchmark of WHO.
With a highly successful and deeply committed vaccine-producing biopharma industry and a strong scientific base, India should lead the world in developing and producing vaccines.