Expert says pneumonia still top killer of PH kids, bats for wider vaccine access
MANILA, Philippines – Pneumonia remained to be the top killer of children in the Philippines and the rest of the globe which makes it critical to give wider access to vaccines as a preventive measure, according to an international expert on pediatric diseases and their cures.
Dr. James Wee, medical director of pharmaceutical company Pfizer who had done extensive research on different diseases stalking children, said three types of deadly microbes, or serotypes, cause pneumonia among children 5 years or younger and are still prevalent in the Philippines.
The three serotypes, Wee said in a statement, cause serious infections but one, which he identified as serotype 19A, was the most virulent and prevalent. It is also associated with antibiotic resistance, he said.
Another serotype, 3, is associated with complicated pneumonia. Serotype 6A is a cause of invasive pneumococcal disease.
According to Wee, pneumonia is the No. 1 cause of death among children worldwide, worse than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
The Philippines is among the most vulnerable because scientific data showed that the three serotypes that cause pneumonia among children are present in 19.36 percent of samples extracted from pneumonia-stricken children in previous years.
The Department of Health (DOH) website, citing the World Health Organization, said in 2015 alone, almost 1 million children aged 5 and below died of pneumonia-related causes around the world.
In the Philippines, the pediatric death ratio is 23.4 per 100,000. The Philippines is among 15 countries that account for 75 percent, or three-fourths, of childhood pneumonia cases.
“Our children are at risk and vaccination is key,” said Wee. He said a particular vaccine, PCV 13, was found to be effective against the microbe strains.
The DOH has been using PCV 13 since 2014. Globally, the vaccine is used by 126 out of 159 countries with ongoing national immunization programs. The United States and China are on PCV 13 exclusively.
Since 2015, PCV 13 use globally has been on the rise because of the broader protection it offers and because of findings that preventing deaths actually saves government more money than if it were to use cheaper vaccines like PCV 10 that do not offer protection against the three strains.
From 2015 to 2019, at least 18 countries introduced PCV13: Spain, Cambodia, Portugal, Solomon Islands, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Lebanon, Namibia, Mauritius, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, India, Romania, Haiti, Mongolia and Seychelles and Bhutan.
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