Giving Compass’ Take:
• Keith Klugman describes the need for expanded access to pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to prevent childhood pneumonia deaths.
• What system-level changes are needed to improve access to this vaccine?
• Learn about key elements of a vaccine program rollout.
There is something that you and I both do 23,000 times each day.
Breathe. Inhale life-sustaining oxygen, without which we’d only survive a handful of minutes. Breathing shouldn’t be a privilege. But it is. Around the world, pneumonia makes breathing impossible for too many, taking the lives of 920,000 children annually—a life every 2 minutes. That’s more than malaria and diarrhea combined.
When I first began my career, children dying from pneumonia seemed unavoidable. A pneumonia vaccine was not yet available and antibiotics were expensive and hard to access. This left kids vulnerable to disease, like those I treated in South Africa as a medical student. Every day, I listened to the crackling chests of young children as they fought for air.
Now, 25 years later, pneumonia is not only curable, but largely preventable. With the help of Gavi, more than 109 million kids in developing countries have been vaccinated with pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), which protects them against the leading cause of pneumonia deaths. Antibiotics are cheaper and more widely available. And even life-sustaining oxygen therapy is becoming more readily available, thanks to the WHO’s recent decision to list oxygen on the Essential Medicines List.
Yet, overall progress remains intolerably slow compared to other childhood diseases. While pneumonia deaths have dropped by nearly 50% since 2000, too many kids still don’t have access to vaccines that can prevent the disease from taking hold in the first place. Approximately 1/2 of the world’s children are still not receiving PCV. Most urgently, PCV must become more affordable so it can reach every child who needs it.
Read the full article about pneumonia prevention in developing countries by Keith Klugman at Global Health NOW.
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