New pneumococcal vaccine could
massively reduce paediatric mortality
An estimated 700,000 deaths could be averted by 2015 with the widespread
use of a new vaccine against pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases.
Pneumonia is the world’s biggest single killer of children.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumo-coccus, is a bacterium which causes serious
often life-threatening illnesses in young children
– among them meningitis, septicemia
and pneumonia. Pnemococcus leads to an
estimated 14.5 million cases of serious illness
worldwide each year. It is a major public health problem. In developed countries
disease burden is carried mainly by the
elderly population; in developing countries
mostly by the youngest children.
Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most
common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children, which kills more than 1.6
million children every year, accounting for
18% of all deaths of children under five
years old worldwide.
In addition, the recent development of
widespread microbial resistance to essential
antibiotics underlines the urgency of
tackling this disease.
Pneumonia can be prevented with
simple interventions and treated with lowcost,
low-tech medication and care.
Importantly, pneumonia can be
prevented by immunisation.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine
PCV13 (Pneumococcal Conjugate
Vaccine) has been developed to replace
PCV7 for prevention of pneumococcal
disease in children. Although PCV7, which
has been around since 2000, has reduced
significantly the 7 strains of S. pneumonia,
which it acts against, other strains of S. pneumoniae that are not in PCV7 have
become more common. PCV13 includes 6
additional serotypes, protecting against
more disease than PCV7. In particular, PCV13 vaccine protects against serotype
19A, which has become the most common
pneumococcal serotype and is often
resistant to antibiotics.
Speaking at a press conference in Dubai
during the Pfizer-sponsored 2nd Africa
Middle East Pneumococcal Summit, Dr Nawal Al Kaabi, consultant in Paediatric
Infectious Disease at Sheikh Khalifa
Medical City in Abu Dhabi, explained
that regional studies have shown that
different S.pneumoniae serotypes predominate
in different geographies and reiterated
the call for public health immunisation
programmes in the region to include
PCV13 in their paediatric immunisation
“The UAE has recently included it as part
of its national immunisation programme,
but it is not obligatory” she noted.
Speaking to the media, Catherine Weil-
Oliver, MD, Professor of Paediatrics, Paris
VII University, Paris, France said: “It is
unlikely we will succeed in eradicating the
disease. So we need to control it.”
And this, she said, can be done through
widespread vaccination programmes,
strong public health surveillance and less
use of antibiotics.
WHO has stated that Pneumococcal
Conjugate Vaccines should be a priority
for inclusion in national childhood immunization
And the evidence is there that these
vaccination programmes work. Studies in
the United States have shown a significant
reduction in the number of pneumonia
cases following the introduction of PCV in
children under 5.
- doi: 10.1086/648593).
Global Action Plan for Prevention
and Control of Pneumonia
GAVI Alliance plans to rollout new vaccine to 40 countries by 2015
The GAVI Alliance plans to rollout the
new vaccine – tailored for strains of
pneumococcal disease prevalent in
developing countries – to 19 countries
within one year and to more than 40
countries by 2015. A few, including
Nicaragua, Sierra Leone and Yemen,
have already successfully introduced the
vaccine into their routine immunisation
According to IRIN News, a “report
card” issued in 2010 by the US-based
International Vaccine Access Centre at
Johns Hopkins University found that
efforts to treat and prevent pneumonia
were falling short in the 15 countries
responsible for three-quarters of the
world’s annual deaths from the disease. A
significant factor was lack of access to
new and effective vaccines.
At US$3.50 per dose, the vaccine being
issued in developing countries is about
90% cheaper than in the developed
world. GAVI and its partner countries
will co-finance the rollout, with governments
in the poorest income bracket
chipping in $0.15 per dose.
A 2007 study published in The Lancet
projected that accelerated uptake of pneumococcal
vaccine in the world’s poorest
countries would be highly cost-effective and
substantially reduce childhood mortality.
Helen Evans, GAVI Alliance interim
CEO, said while participating countries
had shown strong commitment to
ensuring quick and universal rollout of
the vaccine, many of these countries
would need to step up their health system capacity to achieve this.
“The further we get from big cities, the
more challenging the rollout is; the
vaccine requires refrigeration and we have
seen issues with the cold chain, for
example, in areas where electricity is a
problem,” she told IRIN. “Access to families
in remote areas can also be difficult.”
GAVI’s ambitious plans to roll out
this and other vaccines for major
killer diseases is threatened by a
funding gap of US$3.7 billion over
the next five years.
“If the money comes slower than
anticipated, then the rollout will be
slower than anticipated,” said Evans.
“We are hopeful, however, that donors
have a good understanding of what a
good investment vaccination is.”
of upload: 10th Jul 2011