Serum Institute ships first set of its malaria vaccine to Africa
May 21, 2024

Why in news?

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), announced that it has shipped its first batch of malaria vaccines— R21/Matrix-M— to Africa.

Close to half-a-million children die of malaria each year in the African region, according to the WHO. In 2022, the WHO Africa region was home to 94% of malaria cases (233 million) and 95% (580,000) of malaria deaths. India had an estimated 3.38 million cases and 5,511 deaths.

What’s in today’s article?

  • Malaria
  • R21/Matrix-M
  • First set of its malaria vaccine to Africa


  • About
    • Malaria is an acute febrile illness caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
    • It is a life-threatening disease primarily found in tropical countries.
    • It is preventable and curable.
  • Transmission of Malaria
    • Malaria is not contagious and cannot spread from one person to another; the disease is transmitted through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes.
    • Five species of parasites can cause malaria in humans and 2 of these species – Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax – pose the greatest threat.
  • Symptoms
    • The first symptoms of malaria usually begin within 10–15 days after the bite from an infected mosquito.
    • Fever, headache and chills are typically experienced, though these symptoms may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria.
    • In malaria endemic areas, people who have developed partial immunity may become infected but experience no symptoms.
  • Prevention
    • Vector control interventions
      • Vector control is the main approach to prevent malaria and reduce transmission.
      • Two forms of vector control are effective for people living in malaria-endemic countries:
        • insecticide-treated nets, and
        • indoor residual spraying, which is the application of an insecticide to surfaces where mosquitoes tend to rest.
    • Chemo preventive therapies and chemoprophylaxis
      • Although designed to treat patients already infected with malaria, some antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent the disease.


  • About
    • The R21 vaccine is the second malaria vaccine recommended by WHO, following the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, which received a WHO recommendation in 2021.
    • This vaccine has been developed by the University of Oxford and manufactured and scaled up by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
    • The vaccine leverages Novavax’s adjuvant technology and has met the required safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
      • Adjuvants are substances that enhance the immune system's response to a vaccine.
      • They are commonly used to improve the effectiveness of a vaccine.
      • In the vaccine, Matrix-M component is a proprietary saponin-based adjuvant developed by Novavax.
  • Key features
    • High efficacy when given just before the high transmission season
    • Good efficacy when given in an age-based schedule
    • High impact
      • Mathematical modelling estimates indicate the public health impact of the R21 vaccine is expected to be high in a wide range of malaria transmission settings, including low transmission settings.
    • Cost effectiveness
      • At prices of US$ 2 – US$ 4 per dose, the cost-effectiveness of the R21 vaccine would be comparable with other recommended malaria interventions and other childhood vaccines.

First set of its malaria vaccine to Africa

  • Initial shipment to the Central African Republic (CAR) region
    • The initial shipment will be sent to CAR, followed by other African countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the coming days.
  • Malaria vaccine is for the African continent
    • As per the SII, this is a malaria vaccine for the African continent and not for India as the parasite is found in Africa.
      • SII pointed out that the particular parasite (found in Africa) was not in India. Hence for India, it will take another five years for a malaria vaccine.
    • It should be noted that, no Malaria vaccine is currently being used in India under the national programme.