A Kilifi based health blogger Tabitha Mwangi was recently chosen to be part of a research on pneumonia vaccines by a global health organization. Vaccineswork.org is website that focuses on vaccines that is powered by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Gavi is an international organisation – a global Vaccine Alliance that brings together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries. It is funded majorly by the United Kingdom, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a host of nations mainly drawn from the European Union.
Recently GAVI was analyzing the results of the pneumonia vaccine that were recently concluded and chose Coast based blogger Tabitha Mwangi to breakdown the results on GAVI’s blog and her blog HealthKenya.co.ke. Health Kenya was recently voted the second best blog in the 2015 Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) awards health category. Tabitha is a public health specialist who enjoys writing science for public consumption. She is also lecturer and a freelance journalist who holds a PhD in Malaria epidemiology.
In 2011 the Government of Kenya became one become one of few African countries to try out a new powerful vaccine to fight pneumonia. In the published blogposts, Tabitha examines the surveillance results and compares the vaccine’s performance in Kenya with other places like England and Wales.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-10), was introduced as part of the EPI schedule in Kenya from valentine’s day of 2011. PCV-10 is not a cheap vaccine and it’s introduction was facilitated by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. At the moment the government contributes $2 cents per dose for the vaccine that costs US$ 3.50 per dose. However, the agreement with Gavi is that as the economy improves, the government will pay more for the vaccine to the point where they will no longer require support.
Governments in the region were therefore very keen to know whether the vaccine will reduce the disease. An impact study was therefore conducted at the KEMRI centre in Kilifi which already had pre-vaccination data that would be compared to post-vaccination data. All children under 5 years of age within the area around the hospital were also vaccinated in order to get more impact data.
Scientists reported that PCV-10 reduced X-ray positive pneumonia by 48 percent. They concluded that PCV 10 introduction would avert 30,000 hospital admissions in children under 5 years of age in Kenya each year. The vaccine will not eliminate pneumonia completely but reducing it by half is no mean feat. Such a huge reduction would also ease the burden on health facilities and free up beds and resources for other critical diseases. The benefits once this vaccine is availed to all the infants in Kenya will be huge and will certainly lower the national infant mortality numbers.