|No! Wait! Not that vaccine! Don’t unsubscribe!
Rather, I’m cheering for Mosquirix, the malaria vaccine the W.H.O. just yesterday gave a thumbs up to. It stands to make a huge difference as it rolls out across sub-saharan Africa. Hopes are high, even though its efficacy is pretty low.
If you’re like me and haven’t thought much about malaria the past week, it’s no surprise. There are only around 2000 cases each year in the US and most of those are in travelers who’ve returned from infected countries. (Maybe missionaries we love!)
According to the New York Times, “Malaria kills about half a million people each year, nearly all of them in sub-Saharan Africa — including 260,000 children under 5.” You can bet most moms and dads in that region of the world are thinking about it a lot! Even when it doesn’t result in death, the multiple episodes children often experience yearly limit their ability to thrive and make them susceptible to other disease.
Mosquirix is a milestone because it’s the first vaccine developed for a parasite. The science is above my pay grade, but apparently it’s far more difficult to prime the human immune system to fight a parasite than a bacteria or virus. (Can we pause for just a second to thank God for smart women and men who’ve worked long and hard to bring us to this point?) At a 33% efficacy rate, Mosquirix is no slam dunk. But it helps. And better vaccines are in early trials. One with an early effective rate of 77%!
As you would imagine, poor kids tend to take the hardest blows from malaria. When kids can’t go to a hospital, they far too often go to Heaven. And despite the common images of Saudi sheiks and terrorists with briefcases full of cash, in many countries Muslims are the poorest of the poor.
Is it too much to say this vaccine is a gift from God?