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Pneumonia vaccination can be both live-saving and cost-saving

Pneumonia vaccination can be both live-saving and cost-saving

Pneumonia is responsible for 1.5 million deaths in children each year. This means that there are 5,500 deaths per day or one child dies of pneumonia every second.

However, the good news is that pneumonia is both preventable and treatable; thus young lives can be saved.

Factors that have been attributed to increased risk of community acquired pneumonia include: prematurity; malnutrition; low socioeconomic status; tobacco smoke exposure; and childcare attendance.

Virus is the typical cause of pneumonia in children, especially those under the age of 2 years. Respiratory syncytial virus, influenza A, and parainfluenza are the most common viruses implicated in childhood pneumonia. Adenovirus, rhinovirus, influenza B, and enteroviruses are other viruses.

In addition to viruses, bacteria have been identified to be the causative factors. About 30% to 50% of childhood pneumonia has been found to be mixed viral and bacterial infections.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common causative bacteria. Other bacteria include: Mycoplasma pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza, Staphylococcus aureus and Chlamydophila pneumonia.

Treatment is with antibiotics; cotrimaxazole and amoxicillin are the first line drugs for bacterial pneumonia. Viral pneumonia has no specific treatment; treatment generally involves control of fever alone.

Pneumonia accounted for 7.8% of childhood hospitalizations in 2000; approximately 161,000 children were hospitalized. The average length of hospitalization was found to be three days.

The costs to families include: direct costs (hospital charges; physician fees; costs of diagnostics and drugs); indirect costs (transportation costs; and cost of food while hospitalized); and productivity loss.

In the US, pneumonia is associated with $2.5 billion as direct costs and $3 billion is incurred due to work loss and productivity loss.

The average direct cost per child (below 5 years) was found to be $2,055 per year. The cost of inpatient hospitalization was the highest (approximately 83% of the total cost).

“The use of PCV7 vaccine has dramatically reduced the hospital admissions for pneumonia, especially for children below 2 years,” said Dr. Carlos Grijalva, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

Dr. Grijalca said: “A large number of pneumonia can be prevented with this vaccine.”

“It was believed that the primary focus of the vaccine was on diseases such as meningitis and bacteremia, but this vaccine also has the ability to protect against more common infections like pneumonia and otitis media (ear infections),” he added.

“The vaccine is consistently meeting its expectations in terms of its health impacts,” said Orin S. Levine, an associate professor and executive director of PneumoADIP at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “In terms of pneumonia it’s more effective than people expected,” he added.

Levine said: “so it shows that the vaccine is more valuable than people were giving it credit for.”

Moreover, Levine believes that the pneumococcal vaccine will confer substantial health benefits; it will be helpful in an increasing number of children being affected with pneumonia.


1) Direct costs of pneumonia in the U.S.: an analysis of 2007-2008 medical expenditure panel survey (MEPS)/:

2) Community-acquired pneumonia in children:

3) Pneumonia solutions: prevention and treatment:

4) Health care utilization for pneumonia in young children after routine pneumococcal conjugate vaccine use in the United States:

5) Vaccine cuts U.S. child pneumonia rate by 39%: