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Vaccine common in US could save life of 1 child every minute in Latin America – UN

Vaccine common in US could save life of 1 child every minute in Latin America – UN

Two children die every hour from easily preventable pneumococcal diseases in Latin America and the Caribbean, and there are more than 1.6 million cases of the illnesses that include pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis as well as severe ear infections, sinusitis and bronchitis, according to a United Nations-backed report released today.

Yet a vaccine already routinely given to children in the United States could halve the toll, saving a child’s life every minute, and cut the nearly $300 million the infection costs annually, said the study, the most comprehensive ever conducted on the regional impact of the diseases, which kill 1 million people worldwide every year, mostly young children.

“The current vaccine may not be a silver bullet, but widespread immunization will clearly translate into thousands of lives saved, as well as better health for children,” UN Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) official Jon Andrus told Second Regional Pneumococcal Symposium in São Paulo, Brazil. “This will also benefit large number of adults and elderly who catch the disease from children every year.”

Reviewing the potential impact of the existing vaccine, the report found that widespread vaccination of children in Latin America would prevent over half of all pneumococcal illnesses and deaths regionally, saving one life for every thousand children vaccinated and avert one case of illness for every 80 youngsters vaccinated.

Extended vaccines that are expected to become available in two to three years will raise the level of protection even further.

Annual routine pneumococcal vaccination covering 92 per cent of children would save the lives of over 9,400 children every year. It would prevent 678,000 cases of ear infection, 176,000 cases of pneumonia, 2,100 cases of sepsis, and 660 cases of meningitis.

In addition to the current vaccine, which contains seven strains of the pneumococcal bacteria, the report considers the potential impact of other vaccines now in development, including a 10-strain formulation and a 13-strain formulation. It found that the current 7-strain formulation would cover up to 64 per cent of pneumococcal disease, while the 10-and 13-strain formulations would cover up to 87 and 92 per cent of disease, respectively.

PAHO is the regional office for the Americas of the UN World Health Organization (WHO).