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New Vaccine Aims to Take Major Bite out of Malaria’s Toll in Africa

October 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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TRANSCRIPT

MARGARET WARNER: Now, new hope for a vaccine against malaria.

The disease kills nearly 800,000 people each year, many of them the youngest children in Africa.

We begin with a report on the latest from Lawrence McGinty of Independent Television News.

LAWRENCE MCGINTY: While you watch this program, 10 babies in Africa, south of the Sahara, will die of malaria. It’s a scourge that 50 years of research has failed to eradicate.

But today comes some good news. Vaccination trials in seven countries are showing great promise. Scientists are on the cusp of having the world’s first vaccine against malaria.

DUNCAN LEARMOUTH, GlaxoSmithKline: I’m very encouraged today by the results that we have announced showing that we’re protecting with this new vaccine over half the cases of malaria in the study with African children.

LAWRENCE MCGINTY: In the last two years, 16,000 children between six weeks and 17 months of age were vaccinated against malaria with a jab originally tested on American soldiers. It doesn’t work so well for adults, but for young children, the results are full of hope.

Overall, it reduced the risk of getting malaria by 55 percent for children between five and 17 months old. Malaria researchers in Britain told me these early results are promising. The trial is still continuing, but if the final analysis fulfills their hopes, there could be a vaccine by 2015.

COLIN SUTHERLAND, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: There are many countries in Africa where tens of thousands of children might die each year from malaria. And if in such a country, the government were to get this vaccine rolled out for those children in the first six months of life, we are talking about saving thousands of lives every year just in that one country.

LAWRENCE MCGINTY: In the battle against malaria and the mosquitoes that carry it, the tide is turning. And there’s a new optimism about.

MARGARET WARNER: Jeffrey Brown has more on the vaccine and its potential impact.