Why malaria vaccines are not around the corner for travelers

The worldwide push to reduce malaria deaths, especially among children, has led to a recent breakthrough for one of the many vaccines in development.

Unfortunately for businesses and travelers, a malaria vaccine—perhaps similar to the one they receive for typhoid fever—will not be available any time soon. To protect a traveler who has built up no immunity, a vaccine must

  • Be effective at 60% or higher in preventing the disease
  • Have a short initial schedule of medication
  • Provide rapid onset of protection
  • Not interfere with any other pre-travel vaccines.

Further, this vaccine will have to be tested on the people for whom it’s intended. Mostly likely this testing will occur among military personnel, and indeed the American Army and Navy are working very hard to develop this type of vaccine.

For businesses sending their employees into malaria endemic areas, it is vital they continue to stress the existing behaviors required to avoid serious illness:

  1. Taking anti-malarial medication
  2. Protecting themselves from mosquito bites by using repellants and protective clothing
  3. Resting in environments with effective screens and/or bed nets
  4. Knowing the symptoms of malaria and getting immediate attention for them.

If you are interested in the technical details of vaccine development, we recommend the following article that requires free registration to read:

Medscape News Today: Malaria vaccines: A Toy for Travelers or a Tool for Eradication?: Is a Malaria Vaccine for Travelers Realistic? by Blaise Genton, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland and Ifakara Health Research and Development Center