Globe And Mail Examines RTS,S Malaria Vaccine Trials In Kenyan Town

The Globe and Mail examines GlaxoSmithKline’s RTS,S malaria vaccine trials in Kilifi, Kenya – one of the sites where the experimental vaccine is being tested. “The stories of the mothers of Kilifi open a window on the challenges faced by researchers as they build a trial that will include more than 16,000 babies from 11 sites spread across sub-Saharan Africa,” the Globe and Mail reports.

The first five babies taking part in the trial, which has also received funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were vaccinated in Tanzania in late May. Now researchers and medical professionals are “readying millions of dollars worth of new laboratory equipment, training field workers and canvassing mothers in rural villages in Burkina Faso, Gabon and Ghana in the west, Mozambique and Malawi in the south and Kenya and Tanzania in the north to sign up the final volunteers,” according to the Globe and Mail. 

Patricia Njuguna, a pediatrician who is a “principle investigator on the crucial phase-three trials,” first came to Kilifi as a medical officer. Last year, Njuguna and colleagues worked with “dozens of field workers and clinicians on a smaller trial of the same vaccine” that broke “new ground,” and showed that “rates of malaria among babies and toddlers who received the vaccine were 53 percent lower than those of children who did not,” the newspaper writes. However, spreading “enthusiasm” about the vaccine trials to “poor villages buried at the rough ends of old roads, where medical care is rare and deadly illnesses abundant, is no small feat,” writes the Mail and Guardian.

According to the article, suspicion and skepticism are some of the major obstacles in recruitment. But the newspaper reports that the “meticulous explanations and consent required to bring malaria trials to an international standard seems to be winning the trust of Kilifi’s people, if not always the understanding” (Alsop, Mail and Guardian, 6/16).

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