Fifteen months after the first trial of the phase 2 (Mal 47) of the RTS'S malaria vaccine was administered to children in the Kintampo North and South Districts, ADM can confirm that most of these children are looking healthy and strong.
Lawrence Gyabaa, Assistant Research Officer, KHRC who has done a study on the Mal 47 told ADM that the primary objective of his study was to investigate how community members perceived malaria prevention through the use of vaccines.
He explained that the RTS,S malaria vaccine was created in 1987 and has been developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biological in close collaboration with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the USA.
According to him, a version of RTS,S vaccine has also been given to about 2000 children aged 1 to 4 years of age in Mozambique.
He said results showed that eighteen months after the children were immunized, the risk of getting malaria was lowered by one third, and the risk of severe malaria was lowered by about one half.
He added that all children who received the vaccine were protected against Hepatitis B. The protective effect of the malaria vaccine did not wane 24 months after vaccine administration.
He said that in September 2006, Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) embarked on a malaria vaccine trial (Mal 47) among children 5 - 17month of age in the Kintampo North and South Districts.
He said the aim trial is to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine when given at different times.
Lawrence Gyabaa said about 540 children are involved in the trial in Ghana. KHRC recruited half while the other half was recruited in Agogo, Ghana under the coordination of Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research/ School of Medical Sciences (KCCR/SMS).
He said vaccination of these 270 recruited participants by KHRC started on 30th September 2006. Children were successfully followed up though the active phase of the study. He said the active phase means the first 10 months after the first vaccination.
He said the study was also to find out how the community members perceive the use of vaccines to prevent malaria since they have for a long time been used to the Consumption of drugs.
And to find out the belief patterns which have informed such perceptions and why will a parent not agree for the child to participate in future vaccine trials.
The study he said was to find out whether all community members involved or not involved in trial will be happy to allow their children to be vaccinated when a malaria vaccine becomes available eventually.
Lawrence Gyabaa, stated explained that a study was then conducted among men and women whose infants were or were not study participants of the malaria vaccine trial."
A survey was conducted among 466 men and women in the above category. Focus group discussions were also held among them.
He said and in-depth interviews were also conducted among key persons such as health care providers, heads of religious groups, traditional birth attendants and traditional healers
From the survey its was released that all the respondents whose children were in or were not in the malaria vaccine trial knew about the malaria vaccine trial taken place in their communities.
He said the study showed that almost all respondents will want their children vaccinated against malaria other than any diseases.
He said that on their preference for either drug to treat malaria or vaccines to prevent it, 2/3 of respondents will prefer malaria vaccine to drugs.
He said no findings were found as to any beliefs and cultural practices about vaccines that will not allow parents to have their children vaccinated against malaria.
From the findings, all the respondents whose children were in or were not in the malaria vaccine trial knew about the malaria vaccine trial taken place in their communities.
Baba Musa, a father who allowed his son to take part in the trial told ADM that his son looks healthy and stronger than all his siblings and even children in the community who did not take part.
On why he allowed his son to take part, he said malaria is the number killer of children in the community.
He thanked KHRC for using his son and hoped the trial would be successful.
Children who took part in the Mal 47 are now being visited at home on monthly intervals until March 2008.
The final result of this Mal 47 trial is expected by mid 2008.