More vaccines may be required to reverse the economic burden of treating patients with pneumococcal disease in Latin America, new studies have shown.
The Americas have been focusing on immunising children against the disease in recent years, but new research suggests that more use of pneumococcal vaccines could be cost-effective in adults.
This research was conducted by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization, the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lead author of the study Dr Fernando de la Hoz said studies indicate that the cost of illness is an important and significant economic burden.
"Further research is needed in order for health officials to fully grasp the potential impact of immunizing older populations in Latin America and the Caribbean. We know now that the vaccine is saving the lives of thousands of our region’s youngest citizens. The question is whether we should also be protecting their parents and grandparents," de la Hoz said.
The study found that direct medical costs to treat bacteremic pneumonia ranged from $993 to $3,535 per person, and the cost of treatment for bacteremic meningitis was as high as $4,490 for elderly persons, causing sizable burdens on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.
Globally, pneumococcal disease kills one child every minute, but new and improved vaccines are contributing to a dramatic fall in the disease among children.
But adults and the elderly across Latin America who are also susceptible to the disease aren’t getting the vaccines, and relatively little is known about pneumococcal-related deaths in these age groups.
Carla Domingues of the Brazilian Ministry of Health commented; "As people continue to live longer lives, more of them will be at risk of contracting this highly contagious and costly disease."
"The data reviewed during this study suggests that pneumococcal disease is an important problem among adults, causing disease and death from pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis," added Domingues.
Image: S. pneumoniae causes many types of pneumococcal infections, including pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.