Pneumonia is the leading cause of childhood mortality worldwide and currently, 20% of pneumonia-related deaths occur among children in India. When infected with the respiratory disease, a child’s lungs will become inflamed and fluid-filled, which makes breathing difficult and limits the individual’s oxygen intake. The infection can be treated with antibiotics. However, when left untreated the disease can lead to mortality. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common causative agent of pneumonia in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that children younger than two years are vaccinated with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) to prevent infection by this bacterium. Over the past decade, the PCV13 vaccine has been introduced across several Indian states, with variable geographic success. But, with assistance from Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and Partners, the Indian Government added PCV13 to the country’s national child immunisation programme on November 12, 2021. The implementation of this vaccination programme is imperative to combat the increasing burden of pediatric pneumonia across India. GlobalData epidemiologists expect that the inclusion of the pneumococcal vaccine in the national immunisation programme will drive an increase in pneumococcal childhood vaccination rates over the next five years, as vaccination coverage increases.
PCV13 was added to the Udaipur District immunisation programme in 2017. A study published in Gates Open Research by Nagar and colleagues analysed data collected by a novel technology platform that tracks the vaccination status of individual children. The study assessed geographic variations in uptake and the percentage of children under the age of one receiving one, two or three doses of their PCV13 vaccines between February 9, 2017, and October 11, 2020. Of the 18,122 children included in the study, 96% received the first dose of the vaccine. However, the uptake of the second dose varied from 69% to 90% across the five regions included and only 44% to 76% of infants received the third booster dose by the recommended date.
Given the suboptimal receipt of the booster dose and geographic differences in uptake recorded across the Udaipur District, it is essential that the Indian Government support the rollout of PCV13 across each state individually. It is important to make caregivers aware of the importance of vaccination to improve uptake of PCV13 across all states of India. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the pneumococcal fully vaccinated pediatric population in India will decrease from just over 20 million children vaccinated in 2021 to 16.5 million children vaccinated in 2028. However, as PCV13 becomes more widely accessible and vaccine uptake increases due to inclusion in the national immunisation programme, GlobalData epidemiologists expect that the number of vaccinated children will likely surpass current forecast estimates over the next five years. Ensuring that each state can implement encouraging, geographically accessible PCV13 vaccination programs is vital in reducing the burden of pneumonia and pneumonia-related mortality among children in India.