Entries in Pneumonia (1)


In Africa, a Vaccine Against the 'Silent Killer'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- When people in the United States hear the word pneumonia, they tend to think of the elderly and hospital infections. But this "silent killer" is actually the number one cause of death for kids in the developing world, killing more children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

A new vaccine could dramatically decrease the number of pneumonia deaths by immunizing against pneumococcal disease, the most common cause of pneumonia. Pneumococcal disease currently takes the lives of more than a million people every year -- including more than half a million children before their fifth birthday -- according to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

Today, Kenya is the first African country to roll-out this pneumococcal vaccine, which is specially tailored to meet the needs of children in developing countries. Nicaragua, Guyana, Yemen and Sierra Leone will also be using the vaccine.

The speed at which it was released sets the pneumococcal vaccine apart from the crowd.

Normally, it takes 10 to 15 years for a vaccine to reach poor nations. The new pneumococcal vaccine, however, was used in Nicaragua in 2010, the same year as the United States. Considering that 90 percent of the two million child pneumonia deaths each year occur in the developing world, this is a major accomplishment with potential to save thousands of lives, according to experts.

The vaccine launch was engineered by GAVI, a public-private body that brings together United Nations agencies, the World Bank, philanthropists, the vaccine industry and research agencies to improve children's health through immunization.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki joined parents, health workers, ambassadors and donors in Nairobi to witness hundreds of children being immunized as part of the government of Kenya's formal introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine to its routine immunization program.

Plans to bring the vaccine to an additional 40 countries by 2015 are still uncertain. GAVI needs an additional $3.7 billion over the next five years to continue supporting immunization programs in the world's poorest countries.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio