The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, warns that every day at least one child dies every 45 seconds due to pneumonia, being the infectious disease that causes the most deaths in children around the world. Without forgetting that adults over 65 years of age are also at greater risk, since the immune system generally weakens as people age.
Given the figures, it is important to keep in mind that pneumonia can be a serious respiratory infection, for this reason measures must be taken to try to prevent it.
It should be noted that pneumonia represents 81% of the causes of deaths due to pneumococcal infections, so it is essential to redouble efforts in order to avoid acute respiratory infections that cause hospitalizations and deaths.
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In the region, pneumococcus is the second agent that causes community-acquired pneumonia that requires hospitalization, only after respiratory syncytial virus. Although susceptibility to pneumococcus infections is universal, these are more common between 2 months and three years and also after 65 years.
Heading to World Pneumonia Day To be commemorated on November 12, Gabriela Ábalos, Vaccine Medical Leader for Latin America at Pfizer, warns that more than 95% of all episodes of clinical pneumonia and more than 99% of deaths from pneumonia suffered by children under 5 years of age in all over the world are produced in low- and middle-income countries.
“Given this situation, pneumococcus conjugate vaccines (PCV) have reduced childhood mortality, morbidity and disability associated with pneumococcal disease. The identification of serotypes varies according to the geographic region, age and study period; 6 to 11 of the most common serotypes cause approximately 70% of all invasive infections in children worldwide; of these, serotypes 6A and 19A were associated with bacterial pneumonia. Current conjugate vaccines have demonstrated a substantial impact against pneumonia generated by the different serotypes present,” he highlights.
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Every year, pneumonia causes the death of more than 300 thousand people in the American continent. Although the impact of this disease reaches all age groups, pneumococcus infections occur more frequently at the extremes of life. In the case of children, the figures show us that each year, more than 700,000 children under the age of five years die from pneumonia, of which more than 153,000 are newborns, a group especially vulnerable to infection. The outlook for older adults is no less encouraging.
Based on these figures, this disease ranks as the fifth leading cause of death, only below heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer, and above kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes. , cirrhosis and colorectal cancer.
One of the main prevention strategies against pneumonia is vaccination, especially in countries struggling with a double burden of pneumonia among children and adults: “The routine use of pneumonia vaccines in children has substantially changed the epidemiology of the disease . In vaccinated young children, disease resulting from vaccine serotypes has been reduced to negligible levels. Additionally, studies have shown vaccination programs among the childhood population will lead, on average, to substantial protection among the entire population over the course of a decade. This indirect protection should be considered when evaluating the vaccination of older age groups,” highlights Dr. Ábalos.
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According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), since 2000 the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) has been introduced in the region, and as of December 2019, 37 countries and territories already have at least one of the two pneumococcal vaccines in their regular programs.