New data shows that South Africa’s expensive pneumococcal vaccine roll out has cut childhood hospitalisations due to meningitis, pneumonia and rotavirus by about 70 percent in just five years, according to Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Motsoaledi announced the new figures yesterday while speaking at the opening of the African regional consultation on the United Nations’ new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. Still in draft form, the strategy is set to guide global strategies to reduce maternal, child and adolescent deaths.
New data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has also shown that the vaccine led to declines in drug-resistant infections.
In 2009, South Africa became the first African country to introduce the expensive pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. At the time of the vaccine’s introduction, Deputy Director of the Pneumonococal Diseases Research Unit at Witwatersrand University Dr Shabir Madhi estimated the vaccine would add R700 million to the R100 million spent annually on vaccination.
However, Charlotte Maxeke Hospital Head of Critical Care Division Professor Guy Richards said he believes the roll out should be expanded beyond young children to include adults with compromised immune systems such as those older than 60 years old and people living with HIV.
“The use of vaccines all in all reduces costs, hospital admission and the use of antibiotics, so this should be viewed as a full package,” he told Health-e News while speaking at the Africa Health conference yesterday.
Richards also stressed that more South Africans should be vaccinated against flu each year. Currently, only about 20 percent of people receive annual flu jabs.
“We need to create awareness in our communities of the importance of this vaccine,” he added. “Influenza doesn’t give you a warning sign – it hits you straight and hard.”