New malaria vaccine approved, but probably not for Canadians

Today European regulators declared that the malaria vaccine Mosquirix is safe and effective in preventing malaria in small children.  This is the first malaria vaccine that has ever received this approval.  Will we see this vaccine in Canadian travel clinics anytime soon?  That seems to be very unlikely.

Why won’t we see this vaccine in Canada soon?  Here are a few reasons:

1)  The vaccine has been approved for use in children between 6 weeks and 17 months old.  While there are Canadian children this age that travel to malaria zones, most Canadian travellers are not in this age range.

2)  The vaccine has a lower effectiveness than current malaria medications we already have available to Canadian travellers.  Currently if someone is going to a high risk malaria zone, we would prescribe an anti-malaria medication such as chloroquine, doxycycline, mefloquine, or atovaquone/proguanil to take for periods of time before, during and after travel.   One of these medications and bite protection measures (such as bug spray and/or mosquito nets) are quite effective measures for travellers to malaria zones.

3) Mosquirix has not been approved for use by Canadian regulatory authorities.  Since this vaccine would have limited benefit for Canadians, it seems unlikely that the manufacturer will prioritize asking the Canadian government for approval.

While this vaccine probably won’t help a Canadian going on trip to a malaria area, Mosquirix appears to decrease the chances of children living in malaria zones from getting sick.  This could mean saving the lives of thousands of children worldwide, which would be a revolutionary step in global public health.

If you are travelling to a malaria area, you should consider seeing a travel health practitioner.  They can evaluate your risk of contracting malaria and determine if you should take anti-malaria medications.  Choosing an anti-malaria medication should be based on where you are travelling to and your health history and medications, so possible drug interactions can be accounted for.  Some anti-malaria medications may not be as effective as others  in some locations because of drug resistance, and this needs to be considered as well.

Polaris Travel Clinic and Pharmacy focuses on travel health and keeping people safe and healthy on their trip.  We have access to the latest information regarding malaria risk and keep up to date on all travel health information.  For more information or to book and appointment with us, call 403-980-TRIP (8747) or use our online appointment request form.

More information from Mosquirix manufacturer: GSK press release