PRAGUE - Pneumonia, blood poisoning, permanent brain damage. These are just examples of dangerous diseases caused by pneumococcus infection. Globally, more people die from this kind of infection than AIDS. And it also kills in the Czech Republic.

Experts have therefore joined the Pneumococcal Awareness Council of Experts (PACE) and are trying to negotiate with the Ministry of Health and assert the routine use of a highly effective vaccine. “The high risk groups are mainly small children below 2 years of age and the elderly. 430 patients fall ill with the most serious form of pneumococcal disease yearly, and 14% of children infected with pneumococcal disease die. Moreover, the offi cial number of cases of infection is underestimated, because it doesn’t include all cases of pneumococcal infection, for example the seemingly common barotitis,” Pavla Krížová, the head of the National Reference Laboratory for Meningococcus, warns.

Partial vaccination does take place here, but only some groups are vaccinated, like children born with a disorder of some sort. According to experts, routine vaccination is needed. “Negotiations with the ministry take place but the obstacle is the matter of money. To get the vaccination for all children would require CZK 400 million, which is not available at the moment,” president of the Czech Vaccinological Association Roman Prymula said.

The Ministry of Health has so far taken a reserved attitude towards routine vaccination of children. “It is essential to submit this issue to thorough analysis, which is not the question of this year, perhaps in 2009,” spokesman of the Ministry of Health Tomás Cikrt said.

Parents of small children or the elderly who want to actively protect themselves have only one option: to pay for the vaccination themselves. There are four doses, each of which costs about CZK 1850,-. Some insurance companies still offer to cover the 1st dose.