Tackling the World’s Deadliest Childhood Disease
Few people in the developed world would ever guess that pneumonia kills more children under the age of 5 than any other disease. This serious respiratory infection takes the lives of nearly a million children each year, with the vast majority of these deaths occurring in developing countries.
World Pneumonia Day on Nov. 12 reminds us of the urgent need to reduce health inequity around the world to ensure that no child dies from pneumonia or other vaccine-preventable disease.
As deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — a public-private partnership focused on saving children’s lives in the poorest countries — I am proud to say that since 2000, with the help of our many partners, Gavi has supported the immunization of more than 47 million children against pneumococcal disease. This has helped to almost halve the number of deaths caused by pneumonia.
This comes as part of a broader push that has taken global immunization coverage to an all-time high while cutting child mortality in half. By driving down vaccine prices and increasing access to immunization in the world’s poorest countries, Gavi and its partners have immunized more than half a billion children, preventing 7 million deaths in the process.
But our job is far from finished. More than 19 million children still miss out on the most basic package of vaccinations for common diseases each year, making them vulnerable to disease and death.
In the case of pneumonia what is needed is not major advances in technology, but access to that technology in the form of vaccines. Children are dying because health systems are weak and those who are most at risk are often not being reached with basic health care, including preventive interventions such as vaccines and treatments that they so desperately need when ill.
- Health Care