By Professor Trevor Duke, Director of the Centre for International Child Health, University of Melbourne
An estimated 1.3 to 1.6 million children die each year from pneumonia. According to World Health Organization figures, pneumonia causes 18 per cent of deaths for children from birth to five years old.
There is great optimism that the availability of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) will prevent a large number of these deaths due to pneumococcal pneumonia (and meningitis). The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) suggests that the vaccine will potentially avert more than 650,000 future deaths by 2015.
26 April, 2012 will mark a milestone for Ghana. On that day, during World Immunisation Week, the West African nation will make an unprecedented step towards saving the lives of its children from two of the biggest child killers in the country, through the simultaneous introduction of two new vaccines.
Globally, pneumococcal disease is responsible for approximately half a million deaths among children under five every year. As well as being the leading cause of pneumonia, it also causes meningitis, which leaves many of the children it does not kill with permanent disabilities, including mental retardation and seizures. Pneumococcal disease can also lead to blood poisoning, as well as middle ear infections, which can cause permanent deafness.