Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing with phlegm, fever, chills and difficulty breathing. These are similar to those of a cold or flu at the beginning, but they last longer and are more severe. This can vary in its severity and be potentially fatal. It is usually more complex when it occurs in infants and young children, adults over 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems.
Pneumococcus is the main bacterium that causes pneumonia, one of the infectious diseases that takes the most lives of children under 5 years of age worldwide.
Recently published studies reveal that, thanks to the vaccination against this bacterium, mortality in pneumonia has been reduced in 52.7% in Colombia in recent years. It is estimated that 99% of deaths occur in developing countries, often in the poorest and most difficult to reach areas. In 2015 alone, approximately 920,000 children lost their lives due to the pathology.
Immunization against pneumococcus can prevent the occurrence of cases of pneumonia, while exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life and adequate nutrition, help ensure a good functioning of the immune system of children and reduce the risk of this and other diseases.
In the case of pneumococcus, the introduction of conjugate vaccines against this bacterium in immunization programs in different countries has decreased the incidence for this cause.
Currently available vaccines are effective and with an adequate safety profile, for this reason the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends their inclusion in immunization programs at a global level, particularly in countries with high infant mortality.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection has stated that the country's vaccination scheme is one of the most complete in Latin America, which includes universal vaccination for the control of 19 diseases, including immunization against pneumococcus. It is estimated that, thanks to the Expanded Colombian Immunization Plan, since 2012 more than 85% of children under 1 have received vaccination against this bacterium.
"We must address the fight against pneumonia as part of an integrated health strategy to reduce infant mortality. By expanding access to vaccines, emphasizing good nutrition and sanitation practices, providing access to treatment and training health workers to diagnose and treat the disease, we can make great advances, "concludes Dr. Luz Elena Moreno, Medical Manager of Vaccines in GSK.