An economist believes that the distribution of Oxford University’s malaria vaccine could have “major” ramifications in sub-Saharan Africa.

It was announced this week that Nigeria, following in the footsteps of Ghana, has given its preliminary approval to a novel malaria vaccine that was developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. If successful, the vaccine could possibly save millions of lives and increase Africa’s long-term economic prospects.

On Tuesday, the regulatory authorization for the launch of the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine was granted by the largest economy in Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, Africa is responsible for 31.3% of all malaria fatalities globally. This news comes only one week after Ghana became the first country to receive regulatory clearance for the new shot.

Both countries have given their stamp of approval for the use of the vaccine on children between the ages of five and thirty-six months, which is the age range that has the highest mortality rate due to the disease spread by mosquitoes.

The Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford, which was responsible for developing the vaccine, estimates that malaria claims the lives of approximately 800,000 people each year. The majority of these casualties take place in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is responsible for one out of every five deaths that occur among children. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that there were 241 million clinical cases of malaria in 2020, which led to 627,000 deaths, the most of which were among children in Africa.

“This marks a culmination of 30 years of malaria vaccine research at Oxford with the design and provision of a high efficacy vaccine that can be supplied at adequate scale to the countries who need it the most,” Professor Adrian Hill, chief investigator on the R21/Matrix-M programme and director of the Jenner Institute, said on April 13 upon the announcement that Ghana had received regulatory clearance for the vaccine.

Following trial programmes in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi that followed 800,000 children since 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave its approval in 2021 for GSK’s RTS,S malaria vaccine to be rolled out over the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa. The tests that have been done so far suggest that R21 is likely to be far more effective in battling the disease.

Despite the fact that data from the final-stage studies are still being awaited, the R21 vaccine was the first of its kind to pass the efficacy threshold of 75% set by the WHO.

The vaccine is being produced by India’s Serum Institute, which has indicated that it has the potential to deliver approximately 200 million doses per year. Additionally, the vaccine is allegedly both inexpensive to create and easy to transport, and it has been proposed that it has the capacity to supply around 200 million doses per year.