ISTANBUL – Having attended the 3rd Regional Pneumococcal Symposium held in Istanbul, Dr. Orin Levine, Co- Chairman of Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) emphasized that pneumococcal disease is one of the most important health problems of our century, causing 1.6 million people to die every year, although it is infectious. Dr. Levine talked to Medical Tribune about his opinions on this issue.

Dr. Levine states that millions of people are dying of pneumococcal disease although it is vaccinepreventable and this must be dealt with, saying “Vaccination can be effective worldwide only if it is included in the national vaccination scheme. Any vaccines excluded from the scheme are not used by people or not commonly made available to large masses of people no matter if they are inexpensive. Therefore, governments have a major responsibility here. We should not forget that preventing an illness is always easier and cheaper than treating an illness.”

Stating that they have been trying to establish more effective policies in vaccination efforts by meeting together all organizations and individuals working in this field in the symposia organized, Levine continued: “We discussed our targets and strategies for the new period in the Symposium. We have to ensure that pneumococcal vaccine is included in social security system in more countries. Some countries have already done this but the situation in poor countries, which are mostly affected by pneumococcal disease, is not so good. So, economical resources must be mobilized and new ways must be found to make the vaccine available for these countries as well. We made a call also for Turkish authorities through this Symposium.”

Vaccination is most effective method of protection

Dr. Levine stated that resistance of pneumococcal disease against antibiotics is highly increased, according to the data from World Health Organization (WHO) and continued: “This is a matter of great importance, because resistance makes the treatment harder and translates it into a more complicated problem. Also it considerably increases the treatment costs. This actually shows that one of the most important methods used in treatment of disease is becoming nonfunctional gradually. All these facts urge us to conduct and conclude vaccine studies in a successful manner. If we fail to conduct vaccine studies successfully, we should expect much worse problems in the future. As we delay, pneumonia-related deaths and resistance to antibiotics will increase.”

Vaccines must be included in national scheme

Dr. Levine states that vaccination can be effective worldwide only if it is included in the national vaccination scheme, saying: “Any vaccines excluded from the scheme are not used by people or not commonly made available to large masses of people no matter if they are inexpensive. There is much to be done by everyone about vaccination. Governments may accomplish more effective results by preparing more comprehensive schemes. Health organizations may offer better policies and projects on this matter and producers may produce higher volumes of vaccines with reduced costs. We should not forget that preventing an illness is always easier and cheaper than treating an illness. Vaccination recompenses every single penny spent.”