New malaria vaccine trials could save children

Doctors in Mozambique are hoping that a new malaria vaccine will provide a breakthrough in lowering the toll the disease is taking.

Trials starting on Thursday are expected to test the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, known as RTS,S/AS02A, on 2,000 children. Previous trials in Europe, the United States and Mozambique have suggested the vaccine is safe and effective for adults.

"This is currently the most advanced malaria vaccine in development and, if successful, will be a useful public health tool," Pedro Alonso, who is heading the study in Mozambique, told IRIN.

About 3,000 African children die of malaria every day.

Children participating in the trials will be monitored for up to 18 months, a longer period than previous vaccine trials, to see if they are resistant to the disease.

"It is important to note that malaria is not only a consequence of poverty, but also a cause. The costs to treat the disease are enormous on health systems that are often struggling to cope. The loss of life often impacts on economic development," said Alonso.

Results from the trial are expected in June 2004.