Tuesday October 23, 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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The Families Of Victims In Railway Accident Incident In India Stage Protests

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a "heart-wrenching tragedy" and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

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People gather at the site of an accident after a train traveling at high speed ploughed through a crowd of people on rail tracks near Amritsar, India. VOA

Angry relatives of the scores of people who were killed in India when they were run over by a speeding train staged protests Saturday while one of the country’s railway officials maintains the railway is not responsible for the tragic accident.

The train was traveling at high speed when it ploughed through a crowd Friday at a religious festival on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, killing 59 people, Punjab state’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, told reporters Saturday. Singh said 57 others were injured and an official investigation would be carried out over the next four weeks.

The Jalandhar-Amritsar express was traveling at 90 kilometers per hour when it hit the crowd, which had gathered on the tracks to watch a fireworks display marking the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

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The Hindu festival of Dussehra.

Hundreds of relatives of the victims engaged in sporadic protests on and near the tracks Saturday, calling for action against local authorities and the train operator, who was questioned Saturday by police.

Authorities moved the protestors off the tracks and brought in reinforcements to control the crowd.

‘No lapse on our part’

The railway accident was India’s worst in years, but the junior minister who manages Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest rail system, refused to accept responsibility.

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A man mourns next to the burning pyre of a family member who died after a train traveling at high speed ploughed through a crowd of people, at a cremation site in Amritsar, India. VOA

“Railways cannot be blamed. Railways were not informed about the ceremony,” Manoj Sinha told reporters Saturday. Speaking to reporters, Sinha ruled out any punitive action against his staff, saying, “There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated.”

Local government officials said the festival takes place every year on the outskirts of Amritsar and that railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.

Witnesses said the victims did not realize the train was coming because of the sound of the fireworks and celebrations.

‘Heart-wrenching’

Some witnesses said the train did not sound its whistle as it sped past the festival site.

Railway
With India, Indian Railway is also digitizing, Pixels

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a “heart-wrenching tragedy” and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

Also Read: India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India’s railway network remains the main form of travel in the vast country, where railway accidents are relatively common.

Millions of Hindus celebrate the Dussehra festival by burning giant effigies of the demon Ravana, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. (VOA)