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.

Way forward:

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.


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