Not all vaccines are created equal.
Some target the leading killers of children and so their widespread use can prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths, every year.
Like the two pneumonia-fighting vaccines – pneumococcal and Hib.
Not only do these vaccines target the two leading causes of severe pneumonia – the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b – but they are super-effective at what they do.
For example, seven years after the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine in the US, rates of infection among children fell from 80 per 100,000 to less than 1 (CDC).
We are just starting to see impact in the low and middle income countries that have introduced the pneumonia-fighting vaccines in recent years.
Take Mali, the Demoratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
In 2010, children in Mali did not get pneumococcal vaccine and an estimated 24,200 died from pneumonia. Now with 70% coverage of the vaccine, child pneumonia deaths have more than halved to 11,000.*
In 2011, 89,000 children died from pneumonia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By 2016, pneumococcal and Hib vaccine coverage was almost 80% and child pneumonia deaths had fallen to 46,000.
In Pakistan and Ethiopia, child pneumonia deaths have fallen by more than 20% in the last five years following introduction of the pneumococcal and Hib vaccines.
As pneumonia is the #1 killer of children in most low and middle income countries, reductions in child pneumonia deaths feed straight into reductions in the child mortality rate, helping countries make good on their promise to drive child mortality rates to below 27 by 2030 and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.2.
For example, in 2008, 125 out of every 1,000 children in Niger did not reach their 5th birthdays. Since the introduction of pneumococcal and Hib vaccines, the rate has dropped to 91.
In 2012, 164 out of every 1,000 children in Angola did not reach their 5th birthdays. With Hib and pneumococcal vaccine coverage now around 60%, the number has dropped to 83.
In 2013, 100 out of every 1,000 children in Afghanistan did not reach their 5th birthdays. With Hib and pneumococcal vaccine coverage above 60%, the number had dropped to 70.
If progress at this rate continues, Niger, Angola and Afghanistan will all achieve the child mortality goal by 2030 (World Bank).
In contrast, the countries with high child mortality that have not prioritized coverage of the pneumonia-fighting vaccines are continuing to pay a heavy price.
Somalia, with very low Hib and no pneumococcal vaccine coverage, is losing the same number of children from pneumonia in 2016 as it did in 2012 – 14,000.
In Nigeria, an estimated 128,000 children under five died from pneumonia in 2012. Fast forward to 2015 and the same number of children are dying. The very low rates of both Hib (49%) and pneumococcal (26%) vaccine coverage are partly to blame.
Chad is the most alarming of all. With very low rates of Hib and no pneumococcal vaccine coverage the number of children who die from pneumonia has actually risen since 2012 from 15,000 to 19,000.
The following charts document the declines in child mortality rates that have occurred alongside increases in pneumococcal and Hib vaccine coverage for the ten Every Breath Counts focus countries. All child mortality rate data come from UNICEF, A Promise Renewed Progress Reports, 2012-2015 and all vaccine coverage data is from WHO. With continued increases in vaccine coverage many of these countries are on track to achieve the child mortality rate target set by the Sustainable Development Goals – 27 child deaths per 1,000 births.
The cards also document the number of child lives lost to pneumonia for each of the ten countries and where those deaths are concentrated within each country.