February 1, 2007
Contact: Larry Parker
Phone: (973) 972-3000
Pneumonia Vaccine for Babies in Developing World:
Life-Saving and Cost-Effective
Article by NJMS Professor Says Vaccine
Could Save Hundreds of Thousands of Children
NEWARK — According to a study being published in this week’s issue of the British medical journal The Lancet, infant vaccines against pneumococcus, a common cause of bacterial pneumonia as well as sepsis and meningitis, would not only save hundreds of thousands of lives in underdeveloped countries but also would be extremely cost-effective despite a higher cost than other vaccines.
UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School professor Anushua Sinha, M.D., M.P.H., of Westfield, from the school’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, was lead investigator of the team that conducted the study - which included members from Johns Hopkins and also Harvard, the school where Sinha earned her medical degrees and worked until 2005.
According to Dr. Sinha’s paper, some 3.8 million infants between ages 3 and 29 months die each year around the world from potentially preventable causes. An infant pneumococcus vaccine alone, used in 72 developing countries identified by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance) in Geneva, Switzerland, could prevent at least 262,000 and up to 407,000 deaths each year. (GAVI Alliance provided the initial funding for the study published in The Lancet.)
The problem, said Dr. Sinha, is that such a vaccine currently costs $50 per dose in the U.S. Even though the cost of the vaccine could likely be subsidized down to under $10 per dose for use in the developing world, most developing countries do not currently spend more than a few cents per dose for infant vaccines.
So Dr. Sinha and her colleagues, Orin Levine, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, and Tracy Ann Lieu, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School, constructed a model to estimate the health benefits and costs of using the vaccine in the developing world. Widespread use of the pneumococcus vaccine would prevent at least 262,000 deaths and avert 1.2 million hospitalizations annually.
This would also result in a savings of 8.3 million disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs, a year. DALYs are a measurement developed by the World Health Organization for the overall burden of disease, combining years of life lost due to premature death with years of full health lost due to disability.
It should be noted that the estimated annual cost of widespread infant pneumococcus vaccination in the developing world would be $838 million a year. For a net cost averaging $100 for each disability-adjusted life year saved, more than 260,000 children’s lives would be saved and well over a million hospital admissions of severely ill children prevented. Thus, the study concluded, infant pneumococcus vaccine is not only life-saving but highly cost-effective even for countries with limited resources.
Dr. Levine of Johns Hopkins, one of the investigators on the study team, is currently directing a $30 million initiative entitled PneumoADIP (Pneumococcal vaccine Accelerated Development and Introduction Plan), which is conducting studies of illnesses which can be prevented by pneumococcal vaccine at sites in the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Mozambique, Tanzania, Vietnam and Egypt, to increase understanding of the vaccine’s global effects.
Should the vaccine’s potential effects be as dramatic as her study suggests, Dr. Sinha said, widespread use of the vaccine “is common sense when you think about it.”
For more information on Dr. Sinha’s research, please contact Larry Parker of UMDNJ’s University News Service at (973) 972-7265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about The Lancet, the journal’s Web site is http://www.thelancet.com.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates The University Hospital (UH), a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.