Methodology/Principal Findings: The study was a Phase IIb double-blind, randomized controlled trial in 2022 children aged 1 to 4 years. The trial was designed with two cohorts to estimate vaccine efficacy against two different endpoints: clinical malaria (cohort 1) and infection (cohort 2). Participants were randomly allocated to receive three doses of RTS,S/AS02A or control vaccines. We did a retrospective, unplanned sub-analysis of cohort 2 data using information collected for safety through the health facility-based passive case detection system. Vaccine efficacy against clinical malaria was estimated over the first six-month surveillance period (double-blind phase) and over the following 12 months (single-blind phase), and analysis was per-protocol. Adjusted vaccine efficacy against first clinical malaria episodes in cohort 2 was of 35.4% (95% CI 4.5–56.3; p = 0.029) over the double-blind phase and of 9.0% (−30.6–36.6; p = 0.609) during the single-blind phase.
Conclusions/Significance: Contrary to observations in cohort 1, where efficacy against clinical malaria did not wane over time, in cohort 2 the efficacy decreases with time. We hypothesize that this reduced duration of protection is a result of the early diagnosis and treatment of infections in cohort 2 participants, preventing sufficient exposure to asexual-stage antigens. On the other hand, the long-term protection against clinical disease observed in cohort 1 may be a consequence of a prolonged exposure to low-dose blood-stage asexual parasitaemia.