Malaria vaccine trials enter final phase

Major clinical trials of a highly anticipated malaria vaccine have reached their final phase in seven African countries.

A total of 15,000 newborns and infants are being inoculated at 11 sites across the region in tests conducted by the biopharmaceutical company GlaxoSmitKline and the PATH malaria initiative, according to

The RTS,S vaccine has proven to reduce cases of malaria in infants by up to 53 percent in previous testing. If the results of the final clinical trials, due to be released later in the year, are a success, the vaccine could be made available as early as 2015.

"It's a very exciting time," PATH Director Dr. Christian Loucq said, reports. "We have estimated in our models that a vaccine like this could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year."

In Malawi, one of the seven countries where the vaccine is being tested, the impact of malaria is considered to be overwhelming. Every year there are at least 5.5 million cases of malaria, equal to a third of the country’s population.

"It drains the resources," Dr. Karl Seydel, a pediatrician in Malawi, said, according to "We could use that money for other things; we could build more hospitals or hire more nurses."

Most experts agree that the new malaria vaccine will not be a substitute for preventative measures like bed netting, but it could still save thousands of lives and free up scarce financial resources.

"Solving the problem of malaria would very much help in terms of economic development," Loucq said, according to