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Serum Institute of India Ships Malaria Vaccines to Africa


Recently, Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) announced that the shipment of its first batch of R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccines to Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly half a million children die from malaria annually in Africa, which accounted for 94% of the global malaria cases (233 million) and 95% of the deaths (580,000) in 2022. India reported approximately 3.38 million malaria cases and 5,511 deaths.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is R21/Matrix-M?
  2. Initial Deployment to Africa
  3. About Malaria

What is R21/Matrix-M?

  • The R21 vaccine is the second malaria vaccine endorsed by the WHO, following the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, which gained WHO recommendation in 2021.
  • Developed by the University of Oxford, the vaccine is manufactured and scaled up by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
  • Utilizing Novavax’s adjuvant technology, the vaccine adheres to stringent safety, quality, and efficacy standards.
    • Adjuvants: Substances that boost the immune system’s response to a vaccine.
    • These are typically used to enhance vaccine effectiveness.
    • The Matrix-M component in this vaccine is a proprietary saponin-based adjuvant created by Novavax.
Key Features
  • High Efficacy: Especially effective when administered just before the high transmission season.
  • Good Efficacy: Effective when administered according to an age-based schedule.

High Impact:

  • Mathematical modeling indicates that the R21 vaccine could have a significant public health impact across various malaria transmission settings, including low transmission areas.


  • Priced between US$ 2 – US$ 4 per dose, the R21 vaccine’s cost-effectiveness is comparable to other recommended malaria interventions and childhood vaccines.

Initial Deployment to Africa

Shipment Details

  • Central African Republic (CAR): The first shipment will be sent to CAR, followed by distributions to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the coming days.
  • Target Region
  • For Africa: According to SII, the R21 vaccine is designed for the African continent, where the malaria parasite is prevalent.
  • India’s Timeline: As the specific parasite strain is not present in India, it will take approximately five more years to develop a malaria vaccine for India.

Current Status in India

  • National Program: Currently, no malaria vaccine is being utilized in India under the national program.

About Malaria

  • Malaria is a severe febrile illness caused by Plasmodium parasites, transmitted to humans via the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • Predominantly found in tropical regions, it is a life-threatening disease.
  • Fortunately, malaria is both preventable and curable.
How Malaria Spreads
  • Malaria is not contagious and does not spread directly from person to person; it is transmitted exclusively through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • Parasite Species Causing Malaria
  • Among the five Plasmodium species that can infect humans, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most dangerous.
Symptoms of Malaria
  • Initial symptoms appear 10–15 days after an infected mosquito bite.
  • Common symptoms include fever, headache, and chills, which might be mild and difficult to identify as malaria.
  • In areas where malaria is common, individuals with partial immunity might get infected without showing symptoms.
Preventive Measures

Vector Control Strategies

  • Vector control is essential to prevent malaria and curb its transmission.
  • Effective vector control methods for those in malaria-endemic regions include:
    • Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITNs): Nets treated with insecticides to protect people while they sleep.
    • Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS): Application of insecticides on surfaces where mosquitoes rest.

Chemoprevention and Chemoprophylaxis

  • Antimalarial medications, while primarily used to treat infected patients, can also be administered to prevent malaria.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024