Pfizer emphasizes need for vigilance against pneumococcal disease; launches vaccine for adults

While doing my apidextra review, I stumbled upon articles on new vaccine to fight against pneumococcal disease.

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) bacterium, also known as pneumococcus. Infection can result in pneumonia, infection of the blood (bacteremia/sepsis), middle-ear infection (otitis media), or bacterial meningitis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that pneumococcal disease is the world’s number 1 vaccine-preventable cause of death among infants and children younger than 5 years of age.

Pfizer Inc. has officially launched in the Philippines its pneumococcal vaccine for adults aged 50 years old and above, amid statistics showing that pneumonia, the most common type of pneumococcal disease, is still the leading cause of morbidity and the 5th leading cause of mortality in the country.

In a press conference, Dr. Rontgene M. Solante, president of the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) said that Filipinos aged 50 and above accounted for 88% of deaths due to pneumonia. “Often, pneumococcal disease attacks individuals with compromised immune systems and these are usually adults who are already suffering from other conditions,” he added.

Dr. Solante added that individuals who suffer from Pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases experience a decreased quality of life as it could also lead to paralysis, mental retardation, seizures, learning disabilities and hearing loss. He noted it is often the individual’s disregard for symptoms of the pneumonia, most often due to lack of knowledge of the disease, which leads to death.

“We highly encourage individuals, especially those who are 50 years old and above, to visit their doctors and learn and understand more about pneumococcal disease. Understanding is the first step to fighting the disease,” shared Dr. Solante. “Once individuals understand the disease, they will also learn that pneumonia is actually a vaccine-preventable disease.”

“This is particularly important for adults 50 and above whose immune systems have weakened leaving the body susceptible to more diseases,” says Dr. Joe Schmitt, Senior Director for Scientific Affairs (Vaccines) of Pfizer, and a speaker at the press conference.

The pneumococcal vaccine of Pfizer has been available in the country since 2010 for use in children ages 2 to 5 years old and is now approved for adults 50 years old and above in the Philippines since November 2011. The adult indication was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) last October 2011 and the US. Food and Drug Administration last December 2011.

“In the pharmaceutical industry, constant scientific breakthroughs are vital in discovering more efficient and effective medicine to save lives. That’s why in Pfizer, we are fully committed to the continuous search of modern-day miracles – to develop and provide for such cures or vaccines,” shares Patricia Pascual, Pfizer Public Affairs Director. “This is of great priority – we are dedicated to staying true to the enduring values of the global brand.”

Dr. Solante noted that here in the Philippines, it is important to make vaccination a family concern, especially since pneumonia can be acquired by anyone in the family. “Filipinos are very close to their families so we encourage everyone to make vaccination, especially against pneumonia, a family initiative. Encourage your family members to visit their doctors.”

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