The Value of Vaccines

Do you still wonder if they are necessary?

On the occasion of the celebration of World Pneumonia Day, we can say with certainty that Latin America has made significant progress in its fight against pneumonia since vaccines to prevent this infectious disease were first introduced in the region in 2003. One A decade later, the infant mortality rate among vaccinated children has dropped dramatically from about 37 deaths per 1.000 live births in 2003 to 17 deaths per 1.000 live births today. This is a step in the right direction. However, despite the good news, it is a fact that pneumonia remains the leading cause of death in children around the world.

It is estimated that 1,1 million children under the age of five die each year from pneumonia in the world. More people die from pneumonia than from any other infectious disease, including those caused by AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. In Latin America, five children die of pneumonia and another 25 people are hospitalized every hour. The data is worrying; even more so if we take into consideration that pneumonia is a preventable disease.

Good hygiene, a healthy diet, and limited exposure to air pollution and smoke help prevent pneumonia, but they are not enough. Annually, vaccines prevent the deaths of between two and three million people of all ages around the world.

The positive impact of vaccination cannot be denied. With the exception of drinking water, no other modality, not even antibiotics, has had such a significant effect on reducing mortality and population growth.

Measles, mumps, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria among the preventable diseases.

While pneumonia can be caused by viruses or mushrooms, severe cases are mainly attributed to bacteria. Antibiotics are the first-line treatment for the more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria that exist. However, increasing resistance to these further highlights the importance of vaccination as a preventive measure.

Although children are more susceptible to pneumonia, the disease affects people of all ages. As people age, their immune systems are less effective at protecting against disease. Adults, especially people over 50 years of age, living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and COPD are among the most vulnerable group.

According to a 2013 study conducted by the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the target for pneumonia in Latin America may be changing from children to adults and the elderly who are not being vaccinated against the disease. This is a pressing public health problem for the region. It is estimated that by the year 2040, more than a third of the population of Latin America will be over 50 years of age.

Pneumonia has also become a devastating financial burden for governments around the world, especially in developing markets. The Sabin study showed an estimated cost of up to US $ 4.490 per case of invasive pneumonia in the elderly in five countries - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.

The prevention and control of pneumonia requires that Latin American governments have a greater focus on monitoring and surveillance, on raising public awareness through education and on dedicating more resources to detection and pneumonia treatment. To continue to protect children and adults alike, countries must support innovation and have national immunization programs and vaccination policies.

In 2010, Pfizer began supplying its vaccine to the world's poorest countries through a partnership with the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI). Last May, Pfizer achieved a milestone when it distributed 100 million doses. And we are not done. Our commitment to GAVI is to have applied a maximum of 740 million doses in 73 countries by 2025.

The goal of the World Health Organization is to reduce the mortality rate from pneumonia in children under five years of age to less than 3 per 1.000 live births by 2025. That requires leadership from governments and private entities and increased collaboration between all health sectors of the international community. We all have a role to play in fighting pneumonia.

The resistance of many parents for cultural or religious reasons to their children being vaccinated are just that, reasons not based on science. The prevention of infectious diseases such as Covi19 lies not only in hygienic practices, but in the constant development of vaccines that protect against the proliferation or global pandemic of viruses like this one that has had humanity in suspense during 2020.

Vaccines play a key role in boosting the immune system of man, and vaccinated people certainly have little to fear from these diseases and much to gain from being protected. Side effects are minimal, and it is vital that children maintain control and prevention against the outbreak of diseases.

Si vaccinate your petWhy don't you get vaccinated too?

Dr. Alejandro Cané is Director of Scientific and Medical Affairs of the Vaccines Area for Latin America at Pfizer Inc.

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