ISTANBUL — Having convened in the 3rd Regional Pneumococcal Symposium held in Istanbul, experts lamented the low pneumococcal awareness level and called for the pneumococcal vaccine to be covered by social health insurance. Speaking at the press conference, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Ceyhan, Chairman of Turkish Association of Infectious Diseases, said that “Treatment of disease is not enough alone. Resistance of pneumococcus bacteria is increased as a result of frequent antibiotics use. This shows how important vaccination is.”

Pointing out that Turkey has made significant progress in vaccination recently, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Ceyhan says: “We have made significant progress in vaccination but the fact that vital vaccines such as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine are not included in health insurance coverage poses a considerable problem. Vaccination is the most effective way of fighting against pneumococcal diseases, which are common in our country, with a birth rate of 1.3 million every year. As a result of infections caused by this bacteria, 250,000 pneumonia and 2.5 million otitis media cases are observed in Turkey every year. The pneumococcal vaccine has been already integrated into the immunitation programs in many countries. And many others, including African countries, are planning to cover this vaccine in the near future. This vaccine must be applied to all children in Turkey as well. As the resistance against antibiotics is ever increasing, the best way of fight is widespread vaccination.”

Vaccination is most effective method
of protection

Stating that pneumonia and meningitis are leading causes of child mortality in Turkey according to the data from World Health Information, Dr. Ciro A. de Quadros, co-chairman of Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) said that “Although pneumococcal diseases are preventable, they are unfortunately very common both in Turkey and in the world. There are 1.6 million children dying every year from this disease. Pneumococcus is one of the most important problems of today and their resistance against antibiotics makes the situation worse. However, necessary importance is not attached on this disease. Vaccination is the most effective method of protection against this disease, and there are thousands of people who we can save by vaccination. Let us use this opportunity to take action.” Last year, the World Health Organization issued a paper encouraging that pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is a priority that needs to be included in the national child immunization schemes.

Call for global action

While 16 EU member countries integrated the vaccine into their health systems up to now, some countries also put the issue on their agenda. As for Turkey, although PCV-7 vaccine is available, it is not covered by the social health insurance. In conjunction with world’s leading health experts, PACE issued a call for global action, asking that states provide the financing required for access of people to pneumococcal vaccine, that vaccine distribution is made commonly available under the health system and that results of vaccination are followed up.

The PACE Global Call for Action signed by nearly 30 health associations worldwide, including the Turkish Association of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, is aimed at ensuring availability of pneumococcal vaccine under an economical and stable pricing policy. PACE estimates that 5.4 million children will have been saved by 2030, if the awareness-raising efforts currently in progress yield positive results.