Wednesday December 12, 2018

A Vaccine Against Pneumonia And Meningitis Saves Million Children

"far too many deaths , about 900 every day, are still being caused by these two infections."

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A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Oct. 8, 2012.
A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Oct. 8, 2012. VOA
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A vaccine against bacterial pneumonia and another against meningitis have saved 1.45 million children’s lives this century, according to a new study.

The diseases the vaccines prevent are now concentrated in a handful of countries where the medications are not yet widely available or were only recently introduced, the research says.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children worldwide. The bacteria targeted by the shots, Haemophilus influenzae type b (known as Hib) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), are major causes of pneumonia and also cause meningitis. Together, the two bacteria claimed nearly 1.1 million lives in 2000, before the vaccines were widely available, according to the World Health Organization.

Vaccines against the bacteria are not new, but funding to provide them in low-income countries only became available recently.

A baby with parents
A baby with parents, Pixabay

To estimate their impact, the researchers started with country-by-country data from the WHO on pneumonia and meningitis cases and deaths, as well as vaccine coverage estimates. They factored in data from dozens of clinical studies on infections caused by the two bacteria to create estimates of illness and death from the diseases in 2000 and 2015.

They found deaths from Hib fell by 90 percent in 2015, saving an estimated 1.2 million lives since 2000. Pneumococcus deaths fell by just over half, accounting for approximately 250,000 lives saved.

The research appears in the journal The Lancet Global Health.

“What was interesting was to see the rate at which some of these deaths have been prevented in the last several years,” said lead author Brian Wahl at Johns Hopkins University, “largely due to the availability of funding for these vaccines in countries with some of the highest burdens [of disease].”

The study estimates that 95 percent of the reduction in pneumococcal deaths occurred after 2010, when 52 low- and middle-income countries began receiving funding from Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to introduce the vaccine into their national immunization programs.

“The good news is that the numbers are moving in the right direction,” wrote Cynthia Whitney at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an accompanying editorial.

Pneumonia in child
Pneumonia in child, flickr

However, Whitney added, “far too many deaths — about 900 every day — are still being caused by these two infections.”

She notes that more than 40 percent of the world’s children live in countries where pneumococcal vaccine is not a routine childhood immunization.

Many of the countries with the largest number of deaths from these two bacteria have recently introduced the vaccines, but coverage is uneven.

India, Nigeria, China and South Sudan had the highest rates of death from Hib, the study says. All but China have introduced the vaccine in the past few years.

Half of the world’s pneumococcal deaths occurred in just four countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan. All have recently introduced the vaccine, though in India it is a routine immunization in only three states.

Also read:AI tool accelerate diagnosis eye diseases

Lowering the global burden of these diseases will depend on improving coverage in these countries, the study says. (VOA)

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U.N. Climate Talks Pit Countries Against One Another

In light of the deep divisions over how to best fight climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering returning to Katowice to push for a strong declaration.

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A wind turbine overlooks the coal-fired power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. VOA

Divisions deepened at the U.N. climate talks Thursday, pitting rich nations against poor ones, oil exporters against vulnerable island nations, and those governments prepared to act on global warming against those who want to wait and see.

The stakes were raised by a scientific report that warned achieving the most ambitious target in the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit emissions is getting increasingly difficult. Fresh figures released this week showed that emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped the highest in seven years, making the task of cutting those emissions one day to zero even more challenging.

Negotiators at the climate talks in Katowice, Poland, still disagree on the way forward but have just a few days to finish their technical talks before ministers take over.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” said Amjad Abdulla, the chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States. “We are going to forward the sticky issues to next week.”

Amazon, Climate
Logs that were illegally cut from Amazon rainforest are transported on a barge on the Tapajos river, a tributary of the Amazon, near the city of Santarem, Para state. VOA

Among the splits that need to be overcome before the conference ends on Dec. 14 are:

* The question of what kind of flexibility developing countries will have when it comes to reporting their emissions and efforts to curb them.

The issue is central to the Paris rulebook, which countries have committed to finalizing this year. Environmental activists insist that countries such as Brazil, with its vast Amazon rainforest, and China, the world’s biggest polluter, should have to provide hard data on emissions and not be treated like poorer nations who don’t have the ability to do a precise greenhouse tally.

Complicating matters, a group of rich countries that includes the United States and Australia is seeking similar leeway as developing nations.

 

Climate Change, hurricane michael, Storms
In this photograph released by the Sri Lankan Air Force media division on May 29, 2017, flooding is seen in the country’s Matara district. VOA

 

* Several oil-exporting countries have objected to the idea of explicitly mentioning ways in which global warming can be kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body made up of scientists from around the world, recently proposed “policy pathways” that would achieve this goal, which foresee phasing out almost all use of coal, oil and gas by 2050.

But Saudi Arabia and some of its allies say it would be wrong to cite those pathways in a text about future ambitions.

* Developing countries are frustrated that rich nations won’t commit themselves to providing greater assurances on financial support for poor nations facing hefty costs to fight the effects of climate change. European governments argue that they are bound by budget rules that limit their ability to allocate money more than a few years in advance.

What’s clear is that few countries are moving in the right direction to halt global warming.

Climate, pollution
Pollution is emitted from steel factories in Hancheng, Shaanxi province. VOA

“The first data for this year point to a strong rise in the global CO2 emissions, almost all countries are contributing to this rise,” said Corinne Le Quere, who led the team that published the emissions study this week.

“In China, it’s boosted by economic stimulation in construction. In the U.S., an unusual year, cold winter and hot summer, both boosting the energy demand. In Europe, the emissions are down but less than they used to be, and that’s because of growing emissions in transport that are offsetting benefits elsewhere,” she told the meeting in Katowice.

Le Quere, the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England, noted some positive news.

“We have renewable energy,” she said. “It is displacing coal in the U.S. and in Europe, and it is expanding elsewhere.

Climate change, ice, China, emissions, Global Warming
An ice crevasse is seen on the Baishui Glacier No. 1, the world’s fastest melting glacier due to its proximity to the Equator, on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the southern province of Yunnan in China. VOA

“It’s not enough to meet the growing energy demand in developing countries in particular,” she said. “But the industry is growing.”

Host nation Poland, which depends on coal for 80 percent of its energy needs, is among those demanding help for workers in coal and gas industries who could lose their jobs as nations shift to cleaner energy.

Also Read: AIIMS Prepare Research Project On Air Pollution’s Impact on Health

In light of the deep divisions over how to best fight climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is considering returning to Katowice to push for a strong declaration.

“It very much remains a possibility,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday. “If he feels his presence will be useful, he will go back. But no decision has yet been made.” (VOA)