A Sad Day for Global Health


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     Today truly marks a sad day in the global health community, as the results on a two decade's long study for the most promising malaria vaccine to date have come back far less than impressive. An article found in today's issue of Science outlines its failures (the actual results can be found in the New England Journal of Medicine). But first, lets take a larger look at the vaccine.
   
     One thing needs to be cleared up before we go into this: this vaccine is not intended to be like a smallpox or polio vaccine, it's more like the measles, mumps, and rubella one. There was not going to be a widespread mobilization to inject as many people as possible to eradicate it, rather it was to be given to infants in multiple parts. That being said, the results were still disappointing. The risk of episodes of malaria are only lowered by 31% for babies between 6 and 12 weeks old when given he vaccine. The age noted is important here, and the main reason why the results are viewed as so disappointing; as between 6 and 12 weeks for a vaccine is ideal health-wise (the earlier a child is vaccinated the less of a chance to get the disease) and is the most cost efficient. For example, as stated in the article, the risk is lowered by a lot more (56%) when given to babies between 5 and 17 months of age, which suggests that starting the vaccination cycle later increases the possibility of lowering the risk. This, however, is much more expensive than administering it early, not to mention that 56% isn't exactly an overwhelming number and while it suggests that the risk would lower if the vaccination cycle started even later, this is of course not certain.   
     So what does this mean for the world as a whole? Well for one, malaria is obviously going to continue to be a very large problem. While there is some promise for some kind of working vaccine to be created there remains a question of how long it will take to produce. Even after a working vaccine is produced the "cost-effective" question remains. If it turns out to be quite expensive how will it be put to widespread use? Will there be enough money left to develop vaccines if the disease mutates? While all of these questions seem quite bleak now that the results of this study have come out there is still some hope.
     This study could still produce positive results. The full results, which won't be ready until 2014, could show progress in lowering the risk of malaria, as well as how long protection would last, if a booster is given to children 18 months after their third dose of the vaccine. While probably the most expensive option, some positive results would be far better than none. Another bright spot is that severe side effects of this vaccine would be relatively low. I'm sure the Global Health community, as well as anyone who wants to see progress in stopping this disease, will begin holding their breaths until 2014. Do you think we'll ever see an effective malaria vaccine during our lifetimes?     

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I made a similar blog on my page about the virus. this virus needs to be situated with because it is a hazard for various countries and also an epidemic could possibly occur in the United States as immigrant patterns continue. I wonder if scientists could somehow manipulate the virus and somehow make an anti-malaria virus that can fight off the bugs associated with the virus. Like make a placebo type of drug for the insects and trick them to thinking the placebo is something valuable but in reality its artificial. interesting post all in all.

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