This week the press around the world reports on the developments with the RTS'S vaccine, which pharmaceutical company GSK has now filed for registration with the European Medical Association. This is a first in history, the first time that a malaria vaccine has reached this stage of development. So remember, these are days that history is written, and years form now you will read in textbooks about what happened in July 2014. Enough reason to pop the champagne one could argue, but thirty years of developing this vaccine and bringing it to this level, still leaves some open questions.
Interestingly, it is the ebola outbreak in West Africa that got us thinking about the hurdles that RTS'S might face. The fact that well-willing health workers and hordes of staff from MSF fail to contain the ebola epidemic is partially due to the fact that they cannot heal infected individuals. Over 90% of ebola-infected patients die. Thus, it is no surprise that in affected communities there is considerable anxiety about the presence of health workers. Now to the extent that health workers are blamed for spreading the virus. This would, no doubt, be completely different if they could simply cure people with drugs.
In some way there is a parallel with a vaccine that does not provide full protection. If a mother takes her child for 3 injections with RTS'S but is informed that the jabs only provide partial protection and that the child can still go down with malaria, then how long will it take before communities start to oppose vaccinations? And could this turn worse: Could resisting communities now refuse all vaccinations, including those from the EPI programme, some of which provide life-long protection, simply because RTS'S is not providing adequate protection?
The question in front of us professionals could be this: Would you rely on vaccination with RTS'S? For your children?
This week's column, by Kate Dieringer touches on these very issues from a different perspective: the way we view acute problems versus chronic ones. Read her column 'Viral panic is contagious'.
Also this week a contribution from Bill Jobin, about the Yale Declaration on malaria that was drafted by a team of experts back in 2008. Six years later, just recently, the Jerusalem Declaration was signed by another group. Compare the two and draw your conclusions...
Enjoy this week's MalariaWorld - the MW team.
Log in at MalariaWorld. Remember that you have to log-in at MW to read more, respond to polls, open attachments and get free copies of books and other documents. Forgot your username and/or password? Go to www.malariaworld.org, click on Sign in and then on Request new password. Fill out your email address that you use to receive the MW newsletter and the Word verification. You will then receive further instructions by email.