The vaccination of adults against pneumococcus, a bacterium that causes pneumonia among other diseases, is a pending subject from a public health perspective, the medical director of MSD in Spain, Dr. Joaquín Mateos, told EFEsalut
X-ray of an eight-month-old child with necrotizing pneumonia caused by co-infection of pneumococcus and the novel coronavirus. Photo provided by the Nen Jesús Children’s Hospital in Madrid
Dr. Mateos made these statements on the occasion of World Pneumonia Day, November 12, and recalled the importance of investing in research and developing innovative vaccines that respond to unmet needs in relation to pneumococcal disease and pneumococcus
Recently, MSD’s 15-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for adults has been approved in Spain, which, its medical director points out, “offers a robust response against each of the 15 serotypes it contains, which are the most prevalent and responsible for the most serious disease at the moment”.
Infections caused by pneumococcus constitute an important health problem, says Mateos, “being the main cause of morbidity and mortality from infectious disease potentially preventable by vaccination”.
It is estimated that the pneumococcus is responsible for approximately half of the serious pneumonias that require hospitalization, “which implies a great health and economic repercussion”, he adds.
However, pneumococcal disease, beyond pneumonia, can lead to potentially very serious conditions such as otitis media, pneumococcal meningitis, septicemia, and bacteremia.
The pneumococcus is a bacterium that mainly affects the extremes of life: children and the elderly, as they have an immature and weaker immune system.
The Ministry of Health recommends vaccination against pneumococcus in children during the first year of life, in the population over 18 years old with the presence of risk pathologies and in people over 65 years old.
Lessons learned from covid vaccination
In the context of World Pneumonia Day, Mateos gives the example of the lessons learned about vaccination during the covid pandemic with the aim of “bringing adult vaccine coverage against pneumococcus closer to 75% marked as to optimal by the WHO”.
In adults, specialist estimates place vaccination against pneumococcus between 20 and 40%.
In children, compliance rates for this vaccination are high.
“The recommendation of the healthcare professional is the main lever to increase vaccine coverage”, emphasizes Dr. Joaquín Mateos.
What are the challenges to pneumococcal vaccination?
MSD’s medical director points out: “Continue to develop innovative vaccines that reduce the burden of disease from the most prevalent and severe serotypes.”
At the level of public health, he continues, “we must continue to strengthen confidence in vaccines and encourage the training and commitment of healthcare professionals, so that we can all improve adult vaccination coverage and protect pediatric coverage”.
“In this way, we will manage to transform the course of pneumococcal disease”, he adds.
What are serotypes and how important are they?
The serotypes, explains Mateos, are different types of pneumococcus that differ according to the different antigens in their polysaccharide capsule. We could say that they are “variants” of pneumococcus, of which around 100 serotypes have been identified today.
Of these 100 serotypes, 20-25% are responsible for the most severe form of pneumonia. For example, one of the most frequent and aggressive serotypes, both in the adult and pediatric population, is serotype 3, which is covered by the new vaccine.