Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunize kids against malaria

A Health Surveilance Assistant prepares to give a dose of the Malaria Vaccinne into the first recipient on April 23, 2019 at Mitundu Community hospital in Malawi's capital district of Lilongwe on the first day of the Malaria vaccine implementation pilot programme in Malawi aiming to immunise 120,000 children aged two years and under to assess the effectiveness of the pilot vaccine and whether the delivery process is feasible. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunize kids against malaria

  • The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015

LONDON: The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.
Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.
“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who is not linked to WHO or vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands from falling ill or even dying.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. A previous trial showed the vaccine was about 30% effective in children who got four doses, but that protection waned over time. Reported side effects include pain, fever and convulsions.
Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s malaria program, said similar vaccination programs would begin in the coming weeks in Kenya and Ghana, with the aim of reaching about 360,000 children per year across the three countries.
Alonso called the vaccination rollout a “historical moment,” noting that it was significantly more difficult to design a vaccine against a parasite as opposed to a bacterium or virus.
He acknowledged the vaccine was flawed but said the world could not afford to wait for a better option. “We don’t know how long it will take to develop the next-generation vaccine,” he said. “It may be many, many years away.”
In the meantime, he said, the stalled progress against malaria demanded new tools now. Resistance is growing to medicines that treat the disease, while mosquitoes are becoming more resistant to insecticides. In addition, funding for malaria efforts has plateaued in recent years.
It took GSK and partners more than 30 years to develop the vaccine, at a cost of around $1 billion. GSK is donating up to 10 million vaccine doses in the current vaccination initiatives. A company spokesman said GSK is working with partners to secure funding for potentially broader vaccination programs.
Some experts warned the vaccination programs should not divert limited public health funds from inexpensive and proven tools to curb malaria such as bed nets and insecticides.
“This is a bold thing to do, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Thomas Churcher, a malaria expert at Imperial College London. “As long as using the vaccine doesn’t interfere with other efforts, like the urgent need for new insecticides, it is a good thing to do.”
Craig said one of health officials’ biggest challenges could be convincing parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that only protects about a third of children for a limited amount of time.
More commonly used vaccines, like those for polio and measles, work more than 90 percent of the time.
“This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like,” Craig said. “But I hope this will kick-start other research efforts so that the story doesn’t end here.”


US says anyone who allows Iran tanker Adrian Darya I to dock risks sanctions

Updated 21 August 2019
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US says anyone who allows Iran tanker Adrian Darya I to dock risks sanctions

  • Greece says it received no docking request from tanker
  • Iran says Iranian court to hear case of detained UK tanker

UNITED NATIONS: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says anyone who “touches,” supports or allows an Iranian tanker carrying crude oil to dock risks US sanctions.
He told reporters Tuesday that if an Iranian supertanker that left Gibraltar on Sunday again heads to Syria, “we’ll take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.”
Greece said earlier in the day that it had not had a request from the Adrian Darya 1, the vessel at the center of a dispute between Iran and the United States, to dock at one of its ports, as Washington warned Greece against helping the vessel.
The tanker, formerly called Grace 1, left Gibraltar on Sunday. Ship-tracking data on Tuesday showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata on the southern coast of the Peloponnese and was scheduled to arrive next Monday.
“We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters at the United Nations.
He said that if the tanker’s oil was sold, the revenue would be used by elite units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. “We want to deny them the resources to continue their horrific terror campaign,” Pompeo said.
The tanker is carrying about 2 million barrels of oil.
“The vessel is cruising at low speed and there is still no formal announcement that it will arrive at Kalamata. The Merchant Marine Ministry is monitoring the matter along with Greece’s Foreign Ministry,” a Greek Shipping Ministry spokesman said.

The Iranian flag flies on oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, as it sits anchored in Gibraltar, Spain, on August 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Jon Nazca)

The ship, which is now sailing under an Iranian flag, was released from detention off Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
Soon after the detention order was lifted, a US federal court ordered the seizure of the vessel on different grounds, but that petition was rejected by Gibraltar.
Tehran said any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.” The United States in turn has also conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government over the tanker.
Washington wants the tanker detained on the grounds that it had links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which it has designated a terrorist organization.
The European Union, of which Greece is a member, bans oil sales to Syria and the United States has sanctions on Iranian oil sales.

Impact on detained UK tanker?
The fate of the Adrian Darya 1 could also have a bearing on that of a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz leading into the Gulf two weeks after British Royal Marine commandos seized what was then known as the Grace 1.
Speculation has mounted that the Stena Impero could be freed once the Adrian Darya 1 had set sail, although Iranian officials have denied any link between the two cases.
Deputy Transport Minister Mohammad Rastad said the case of Stena Impero had been submitted to a court in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported, without giving a date when it would be heard.
The handling of the Adrian Darya 1 will be a major foreign policy test for Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a pro-Western conservative elected in July.
Any efforts to assist the tanker could be construed as providing material support to a US-designated foreign terrorist organization, which has immigration and potential criminal consequences, a US State Department official said.
A Greek diplomatic source cited by the state Athens News Agency said the country was in communication with the United States on the matter, but did not say what Greece would do.
“(The US) position on the specific issue is known and has been communicated not only to Greece but other states and ports in the Mediterranean,” the source said.
It is standard practice for a vessel to give 48 hours’ notice before docking at a port, Greek officials said.
It was not clear where the ship might head if Greece refused it permission to dock.
Cyprus, farther east, has bitter experience from seizing Iranian products destined for Syria. Munitions it confiscated exploded in 2011, causing the island’s worst peacetime disaster.