Soumya Swaminathan, director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, has confirmed the news that the government is considering the introduction of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV). Likely to be launched in a phased manner by 2017-18, PCV will be used for treatment of pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and meningitis.
Antibiotic resistance has been in the news recently. However, Ramanan Lakshminarayan, who is the vice president, Research and Policy at Public Health Foundation of India, and also co-authored a paper about access to effective antimicrobial s, is of the view that providing access to antibiotics is a stronger issue in India. The effective solution lies in introducing new drugs in the market.
Swaminathan and Lakshminarayan were a part of the panel discussion organised during the launch of the latest edition of The Lancet. This edition consists of five papers covering issues such as access to effective antimicrobial s, understanding the mechanisms and the drivers of antimicrobial resistance, and maximising access to achieve appropriate human antimicrobial use in low and middle-income countries.
According to the paper, many of the estimated 6.3 million children aged younger than five years who died in 2013 died of preventable infectious diseases; 15% of these deaths were caused by pneumonia which is strongly correlated by availability of antibiotics.
India has the highest number of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths among children globally, according to a report by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released earlier this month. The Lancet study estimated that 169,760 under-5 pneumonia deaths in India could be averted with universal antibiotics access.
Swaminathan added that the ministry of health and family welfare had approved the PCV, but further studies had to be carried out, as reported by The Mint newspaper.
Laxminarayan, added that there is a need for progressive policies and action before more lives are lost for want of sensible policies and public health interventions to provide access to the medications and conserve antibiotic effectiveness.
“The government through initiatives like Mission Indradhanush is working to reduce the burden of bacterial infections by improving access to sanitation and vaccination at an unprecedented scale,” he added.
Streptococcus pneumonia, bacteria which can cause these illnesses is protected by doses of PCV. The highest burden countries suffering from the disease include India, Indonesia, Chad, China, and Somalia. However, these countries have not been using the vaccine in their routine immunization programmes, since its introduction in 2000.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, Streptococcus pneumonia is reported to kill half a million children under 5 yrs of age. Most of such incidents occur in developing nations.