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Asian Pneumonia Prevention Organization Calls For Required Pneumonia Vaccine In India

The Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal Disease Prevention (ASAP) is calling for the pneumonia vaccine to become an official part of India’s required list of immunizations, the Times of India reports. According to the newspaper, Nithin Shah, chairman of ASAP India chapter, said there is an “immediate need to take steps to control and prevent pneumonia morbidity and mortality,” which is the leading cause of death among children younger than age five in India, according to international child health experts (7/26).

At the Mangalore Pneumococcal Disease Conference, hosted by the ASAP India chapter and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), the physician Jeeson Unni said, “India leads the world in under-five mortality, with [2,000,000] children dying every year. Of these, four lakh [400,000] deaths are due to pneumonia,” PTI/Hindu reports.

Shah said, “Half of all severe cases of pneumonia and pneumonia deaths are caused by pneumococcus and almost 40 percent of these deaths i.e. nearly one lakh [100,000] under-five deaths, are preventable by use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in the National Immunisation Programme.” In Western trials, the vaccine has proven to be 90 percent effective against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD), Shah said, adding, “Even in countries like South Africa the trials have shown 80 percent efficacy of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine against IPD.”   

Unni added that the disease “kills more children than any other illness – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined -according to UNICEF data.” Srinivas G Kasi, a physician, said though doctors use antibiotics to treat children with pneumonia, increasing incidence of drug-resistant pneumococcus is a cause for concern (7/26).

“A note issued by ASAP stated” the successful childhood national immunisation programme with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine “has shown significant benefits passed on to even unvaccinated people of all ages due to the herd immunity,” the Times of India writes. ASAP India and IAP have recommended use of the vaccine on “one-to-one basis as per the IAP immunisation schedule,” the newspaper reports (7/26).