ISTANBUL — International experts in the fields of health and infectious diseases have joined forces to raise awareness and encourage global prevention of pneumococcal disease, the world’s leading infectious killer of children and adults worldwide. Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and other life-threatening ailments, and kills 1.6 million people — including more than 800,000 children under the age of five — annually.
The Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) came together as a working group to save millions of lives under the auspices of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, supporting development and availability of new vaccines. As an effort to urge policy- akers to ensure access to new life-saving vaccines to those most at risk, the launch of PACE follows the recent commitment of more than $1.5 billion by five countries and the Bill Gates Foundation in financing for pneumococcal vaccines. PACE co-chairman Dr. Ciro A. de Quadros estimates that, with increased awareness and a resulting commitment to purchase and deliver pneumococcal vaccines, 5.4 million children’s lives could be saved by 2030.
Dr. Orin Levine, co-chairman of PACE, points out another reason for urgency is that current methods of treatment are growing weaker.
“Pneumococcal infections are becoming more difficult to treat as bacteria become resistant to some commonly used antibiotics. Therefore, a comprehensive global plan for vaccine development and distribution should be launched. By encouraging professional societies, policy-makers and key health and financial decision-makers to make pneumococcal disease prevention a ‘priority,’ our aim is to help save millions of lives.”
Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus is a dangerous bacterium that causes serious diseases leading to incapacity or death including pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), meningitis (inflammation of the meninx), and bacteraemia (inflammation of the blood). Pneumococcal diseases kill 1.6 million people — including 800,000 to one million children under the age of five — annually. Survivors of pneumococcal meningitis can be left with serious disabilities, including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, brain damage, kidney disease, deafness, limb amputations, and developmental delays.
Conjugate Pneumococcal Vaccine Safe and effective vaccines currently exist to prevent pneumococcal deaths in children and adults. A seven- alent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) on the market since 2000 is currently in use in over 70 countries and can be used in infants and children from two weeks to nine years of age. Since infants in the U.S. began receiving routine pneumococcal conjugate vaccination in 2000, the country has nearly eliminated (reduced by 95%) childhood pneumococcal disease caused by vaccine serotypes. Currently, 10- and 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine formulations are in late stages of development and these conjugate vaccines are expected to prevent 50–80 percent of all serious pneumococcal infections worldwide.