Nearly 1.5 million children’s lives have been spared since 2000 thanks to vaccines for bacterial strains of pneumonia, meningitis, pneumococcus and Hib.
Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and pneumococcus are bacteria that lead to these life-threatening complications that are a major threat to children, especially in the developing world. In the year 2000 alone, nearly 900,000 children died from severe Hib and pneumococcus infections, according to a new study published in The Lancet Global Health.
But when vaccines were introduced in “high-burden” countries in Asia and Africa between 2000 and 2015, childhood deaths from these illnesses declined sharply and spared the lives of nearly 1.5 million, the study’s authors at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health found.
Vaccinations in greater numbers are necessary to save more lives, however.
“Further progress against these diseases will depend on efforts in a few large countries,” lead author and assistant scientist at the International Vaccine Access Center, Brian Wahl, said in a release. “These bacteria still cause far too many child deaths.”
Similar vaccines against these pathogens have been used in the U.S. and Europe for the past 30 years and have virtually eradicated Hib, but that’s not yet the case in the world’s more impoverished nations. Those countries have only had a vaccine to fight off pneumococcus since 2009.
The study used World Health Organization and UNICEF data to estimate how many children died from these infections on a country-by-country basis over time. They saw that after vaccines were introduced, Hib and pneumococcus deaths dropped by 90% and 51%, respectively, from 2000 to 2015.
Wahl and his colleagues note that although progress has been made in preventing these deaths, about 900 children still die each day around the world from Hib and pneumococcal diseases. Nearly half of these deaths in 2015 occurred in four countries – India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.