ISTANBUL (A.A) – 02/13/2008 – Prof. Dr. Ciro A. de Quadros, co-chairman of the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE), stated that seven children die from diseases caused by pneumococcus bacteria every minute, pointing out that the pneumococcal conjugate vaccination was effective and safe in preventing such diseases.

A press conference was held for the Third Regional Pneumococcal Symposium organized in The Marmara Hotel by the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts, a work group consisting of leading world experts in the field of infectious diseases and vaccines.

Speaking at the Symposium, Dr. de Quadros said that pneumococcus bacteria cause terminal illnesses including pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. Saying that some 1.6 million people, half of whom are children, die every year due to these illnesses worldwide, Dr. de Quadros continued, “There are seven children dying from diseases caused by pneumococcus bacteria every minute. This means that the number of children dying each day is equal to the number of persons that would die in a plane crash involving two large aircraft.”

Pointing out that the success of treatment with medication is low due to resistance gained against antibiotics, Dr. de Quadros said, “There is an effective and safe vaccination available on the market. The Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine is being used in 70 countries. This vaccine protects a majority of children against these bacteria.”

Dr. de Quadros stated that the vaccine has not been yet included in the routine vaccination scheme in Turkey, and this was the most important objective of the meeting.

Dr. Mehmet Ceyhan, Chairman of the Turkish Association for Infectious Diseases, stated that there are 250 meningitis, 2,000 sepsis, 250,000 pneumonia, and 2.5 million otitis media cases encountered in Turkey every year caused by these bacteria, and the most effective method of protection against these is vaccination.

Stating that the said vaccine is presently used by a ratio of 5 percent in Turkey, Ceyhan said, “This should be included in the vaccination scheme offered to each child free of charge.” Prof. Dr. Ceyhan explained that some studies conducted in Turkey showed that the vaccination prevented occurrence of illnesses by 80–90%, and the amount reserved for vaccines under this year’s budget was YTL 156 million while the amount spent for medicines each year in Turkey is USD 8 billion. Commenting that the amount allocated for vaccines is overstated in Turkey, Ceyhan said, “In fact, we can give a healthy life to a person from birth to death thanks to vaccination.”

Ceyhan announced that 85% of the diseases caused by the bacteria are contracted before the age of two, therefore vaccination must be provided from the second month of age.

Dr. Orin Levine, a cochairman of PACE, said that more than 5 million children can be saved by 2030 if the necessary awareness is created on this issue and all countries are involved in efforts to prevent such illnesses.

Stating that they called for global action on this issue, Levine said that financial resources from governments and leaders as well as international organizations are required in order to guarantee access of all people in the world to pneumococcal vaccines.

Dr. Levine also declared that they called on leaders in the fields of healthcare, science and other related areas to increase the awareness level on this issue and continue the research and studies aimed at preventing such illnesses and on vaccine producers to develop effective vaccines.