Nigeria becomes second country to approve Oxford’s malaria vaccine

After Ghana, Nigeria’s approval of malaria vaccine will help world achieve WHO goal of reducing malaria cases, deaths by 90% by 2030

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 19 April 2023
Nigeria becomes second country to approve Oxford's malaria vaccine
Nigeria has the highest malaria burden in the world. Photo: iStock Nigeria has the highest malaria burden in the world. Photo: iStock

Nigeria’s food and drug regulator has granted provisional approval to Oxford University’s R21 malaria vaccine on April 17, 2023. It is the second country to do so after Ghana.  

The vaccine, R21 / Matrix-M, is developed by the University of Oxford and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) African Region, with an estimated 234 million cases in 2021, accounted for about 95 per cent of global cases, according to the World Malaria Report 2022.

Children under five years of age accounted for about 80 per cent of all malaria deaths in the WHO African Region. 

Four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide. These are Nigeria (31.3 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.6 per cent), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1 per cent) and Niger (3.9 per cent).

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, is the world’s worst-affected country, with 27 per cent of global malaria cases and 32 per cent of global deaths in 2020, according to a 2021 World Malaria Report. The country accounted for an estimated 55.2 per cent of malaria cases in West Africa in 2020. 

Malaria vaccine development has long been hampered by the parasite’s complex structure and lifecycle. Contrary to other attempts on this front, Oxford’s R21 vaccine appears to be effective. 

The vaccine was up to 80 per cent successful in the clinical trials conducted in Burkina Faso when administered in three initial doses, followed by a booster shot a year later. 

The WHO has set a target of reducing malaria cases and deaths by at least 90 per cent by 2030.

The approval of the R21 vaccine is a major breakthrough in the fight against malaria, which has been a major public health challenge in Africa for decades. 

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