‘Even if vaccination is provided partially to a high-risk group of children, at least half the deaths due to pneumonia can be prevented’

When a large number of children are vaccinated for pneumonia, other children too benefit as the spread of the infection is contained. This automatically reduces deaths due to the infection, said Adam H.R. Finn, professor of paediatrics, University of Bristol.

Even if vaccination is provided partially to a high-risk group of children, at least half the deaths due to pneumonia could be prevented.

Dr. Finn, who delivered the XIV Millennium Oration organised by Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital on Saturday, shared his experiences studying the transmission of pneumococcal bacteria among populations in Portugal, Gambia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

He presented the findings of a study he undertook in Portugal to explain the benefits of vaccination among children. With around 60 per cent coverage through private practitioners, the benefit was significant, he said.

Pre-school age children are most prone to the infection and the best age to immunise a child for pneumonia is at two years, he said.

The specialist said that vaccines, however, were not a total solution for pneumococcal infection. Antibiotic treatment could also contain the infection.

“Vaccines now available in Western countries have the capacity to prevent pneumonia. They do not prevent all pneumococcal infections but you can prevent half the deaths,” he said.

The prohibitive cost of vaccines which currently make them out of universal reach could be tackled by ensuring that at least a large population is covered under an immunisation programme.

“Providing two doses to more children instead of four to a few healthy children” is better than no immunisation at all to a larger population, he said.

Surveillance of the vaccinated population would offer information on the pattern of infection and help reformulate vaccines to attack virulent strains, he said.

Dr. Finn was presented a gold medallion, citation and a shawl by senior neurosurgeon S. Kalyanaraman. Chairperson of the CHILDS Trust Medical Research Foundation, Mathangi Ramakrishnan, participated.

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