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Evaluation of the SPf66 vaccine for malaria control when delivered through the EPI scheme in Tanzania

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background Malaria control programmes need to protect young children, who bear the brunt of malaria disease and death in Africa. The development of a vaccine is a priority if improved and sustained malaria control is to be achieved. The best use of a vaccine in Africa will be achieved if it can be delivered through the expanded programme of immunization (EPI). We conducted a trial designed to evaluate the efficacy of SPf66 vaccine for malaria control when delivered through the EPI scheme in Tanzania.

methods The study was a two-arm, double blind, individually randomized placebo controlled trial involving 1207 infants. The primary objective of the trial was to estimate the efficacy of three doses of SPf66 given at 1, 2 and 7 months of age in preventing clinical episodes of malaria. These were documented through a health facility-based passive case detection system.

results Among 1207 randomized children, overall compliance for third dose was 91%. SPf66 was safe, immunogenic and did not interfere with the humoral immune responses to EPI vaccines. There were 294 children among SPf66 recipients and 288 among placebo recipients with at least one malaria episode, yielding a vaccine efficacy estimate of 2% (95% CI: −16, 16; = 0.84).

conclusion This has been the first trial of a malaria vaccine among very young infants. It provides information on the safety of peptide vaccines administered at this early age as well as their capacity to induce immune responses without negatively interacting with EPI vaccines. Given the modest protection previously documented in older age groups and the lack of efficacy in younger infants, this vaccine in its current alum-based formulation does not appear to have a role in malaria control in sub-Saharan Africa. The lack of efficacy found in this trial also raises concerns about potential difficulties of inducing protective immune responses against malaria through immunization in infants.
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Keywords: EPI; Plasmodium falciparum; SPf 66; infants; malaria vaccine

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Unidad de Epidemiologia y Bioestadistica, Hospital Clinic/IDIBAPS, Barcelona, Spain 2: Saint Francis Designated District Hospital, Ifakara, Tanzania 3: Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre, National Institute for Medical Research, Ifakara, Tanzania 4: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK 5: District Medical Officer, Kilombero, Tanzania 6: Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland

Publication date: 1999-05-01

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