As you probably have gathered by now, today is World Pneumonia Day. You may have just had one of two reactions: “Oh no, not another one of those wonky global health holidays” or “Yes! Time to get out my pneumonia-fighter costume from last year!”
If you fall into the first category, then you’ll be happy to know World Pneumonia Day isn’t just another day on the calendar, but rather an opportunity to raise awareness of the No. 1 killer of children worldwide and garner support to help stop this deadly disease.
As the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) reports, since this time last year on World Pneumonia Day 2010, 23 additional countries have introduced the pneumococcal vaccine to their immunization programs, 16 of which were introduced with support from GAVI. In just the last year, the report also found that in the 15 countries with the highest pneumonia burden, 500,000 more children were vaccinated against pertussis; more than 1 million additional children were vaccinated against measles, and 155,000 more children were vaccinated against Hib pneumonia. Tremendous progress is being made in speeding up access to new vaccines in developing countries. Over the next decade, 158 million additional children in low-income countries will be protected by the pneumococcal vaccine.
Chances are, as an avid ONE member, you probably fall into the second category. You haven’t met a cause you aren’t afraid to tackle and you spent the spring tirelessly championing for GAVI and got major results. The bad news is, in the same 15 high burden countries, access to care facilities, treatment with antibiotics and exclusive breastfeeding are all below optimal levels to protect and treat pneumonia, so the fight isn’t over yet.
As the IVAC report highlights, pneumonia is one of the most solvable problems in global health. We have the tools and know how to tackle this disease — yet it remains the world’s leading killer of children. Progress in vaccination must continue and efforts to protect and treat pneumonia must be scaled up. This World Pneumonia Day, share these resources about pneumonia with your friends and family, and by this time next year let’s have even more good news to celebrate.