Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It is the leading cause of death in children worldwide: 1.1 million children under five years of age die from the disease every year. It is most prevalent in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The symptoms include fever, a dry cough, and fast and shallow breathing. Severely ill infants may be unable to feed or drink, and may also experience unconsciousness and convulsions.
Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. The two most common causes of bacterial pneumonia in children are Streptococcus pneumoniae (Sp) followed by Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), with respiratory syncytial virus the most common cause of viral pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics. However, many children in developing countries do not have access to such care. Immunization is thus the most effective way to prevent pneumonia and to reduce mortality among children.
There are several types of pneumococcal vaccine including pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (with different formulae protecting against different types of pneumococcal bacteria). These vaccines help protect against pneumoccal disease, which can result not only in pneumonia but also bacterial meningitis and infections of the blood and middle-ear.
A barrier to vaccine introduction in some developing countries is the lack of scientific evidence on the incidence of pneumococcal disease and the impact of vaccine, which hinders decisions regarding vaccination strategies. To address this issue, AMP supports sub-Saharan African countries to conduct surveillance to assess the burden of pneumococcal disease. This information is necessary to identify the potential value of pneumococcal vaccine and to monitor the future impact of vaccination.
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
Hib is another major cause of pediatric bacterial pneumonia that is almost entirely preventable with Hib conjugate vaccine. In the past lack of information on disease burden and vaccine impact hindered vaccine introduction and AMP played a key role in overcoming this limitation through vaccine impact and economic evaluations.
Currently, almost all countries globally use Hib vaccine. In this context, AMP works with countries to monitor long-term impact of Hib vaccine against meningitis, specifically to monitor whether replacement of Hib by other types of H. influenzae may occur or whether vaccine failures increase over time.