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Papua New Guinea

Malaria vaccine embraced by COVID sceptics

A significant number of Papua New Guineans are set to be saved with a new malaria vaccine endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Deakin University’s professor of epidemiology Alyssa Barry told Pacific Beat that the Mosquirix vaccine, which was trialed in Africa, could be a critical tool in PNG’s constant fight against malaria.

She said the vaccine could “really add a lot of impact to the current interventions used in the country”, particularly bed nets.

“There are issues emerging with the loss of efficacy of those bed nets, due to insecticide resistance and potentially behavioural changes in the mosquitoes,” Prof Barry said.

“Mutations are also emerging that are resistant to malaria therapy in PNG.

“The vaccine would be effective in PNG, but it’s not guaranteed to work as it has in Africa and it will need to be tested before it can be rolled out.”

PNG is battling with the world’s oldest pandemic: Malaria. Source: The World Economic Forum.

Prof Barry said PNG citizens tended to take malaria a lot more seriously compared to the Covid-19 vaccines, which has been marred with misinformation.

“With the Covid-19 vaccine, I think the challenge there is misinformation, and that doesn’t seem to be the case with the malaria vaccine,” she said.

“It’s been the result of over three decades of work – and there’s generally great acceptability in those trials in Africa.

“So, we wouldn’t expect to see too much of a difference in PNG with respect to that.”

WHO’s recommendation of Mosquirix follows a two-year trial of the vaccine in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

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