Publication date: Sep 19, 2023
After a period of unprecedented progress against malaria in the 2000s, halving the global disease burden by 2015, gains overall in sub-Saharan Africa have slowed and even reversed in some places, beginning well before the COVID-19 pandemic. The highly effective drugs, treated nets, and diagnostics that fueled the initial progress all face some threats to their effectiveness, and global funding to maintain and increase their use over the long term is not guaranteed. Malaria vaccines are among the most promising new interventions that could accelerate the elimination of malaria. Vaccines are still in early stages of rollout in children, the age group (along with pregnant women) that has been the focus of malaria strategies for a century. At the same time, over the past decade, a case has been made, based largely on evidence from verbal autopsies in at least a few high-transmission areas, that the malaria death rate among adults has been greatly underestimated. Could vaccinating adults help to bring down the adult malaria mortality rate, contribute to reduced transmission, or both? A randomized trial of a malaria vaccine is proposed in Sierra Leone, a highly endemic setting, to shed light on this proposition.