By Subhash Gupta & Dr. Praveen Aggarwal
India is severely impacted with a huge economic loss pertaining to the undergoing health issues. The entire world was only talking about covid-19 over the last 2-3 years; however, people were not aware that lung infection was one of major reasons that led to increase in mortality rate during the pandemic times, as validated by several hospitals including Maharaja Agrasen Hospital. On World Pneumonia Day 2022, we look forward to making lung-health a priority world-wide and understand ways to fight against the disease.
Pneumococcal diseases are the biggest infectious killer of children and adults. On an average, it kills more children than the combined mortality rate caused by AIDS, measles, and malaria. An acute respiratory infection commonly known as Pneumonia claimed the lives of 2.5 million, including 6,72,000 children in 2019 alone. Overall, India accounts for 23 percent of the pneumonia burden globally and case fatality ranges between 14 and 30 percent. Among children, India accounts for 20 percent of those deaths and having a higher burden of childhood pneumonia than any other country.
People suffering with diabetes are 3 times more likely to die with Pneumonia, whereas, 30 percent of patients admitted with pneumonia develop cardiovascular complications. Adults aged 70 years and above have the highest incidence of pneumonia globally, whereas 1.4 million children below 5 years of age die because of that. Reportedly, Covid-19 linked pneumococcal disease was a major cause of hospitalization, ICU hospitalization as well as mortalities. Omicron caused pneumonia 2-3 times faster than any other previously known strains. Post Covid, it was identified that several critical respiratory and pulmonary diseases have impacted the adults and led to loss of their lives.
The very first treatment of pneumonia was created in 1913, and it reduced the mortality rate drastically from 25% to 7.5%. The first vaccine of pneumonia was then formulated in 1977. While this vaccine only prevented a few causes of the disease, it brought hope and paved a way for its prevention in the long run. In 1978, Government of India introduced an immunization program to secure the lives of its people which included many diseases. In 2017, Pneumococcal diseases became part of this plan, under which the government has universalized the vaccines for children to prevent them from pneumococcal diseases in the country. Even the state governments are stepping up to conduct vaccination drives to curb the problem.
Our efforts towards protecting children are paying off well. Research suggests that pneumococcal vaccines could save the lives of almost 4,00,00 children annually. And now it is time to look at the protection of adults as well, that too, with just one vaccination in their lifetime. With increasing pollution, changing lifestyle, lack of physical activities, increasing co-morbidities, many people particularly above 50 years of age, especially those who smoke, drink, or have any kind of liver, cardiac and lung diseases should be extra cautious of pneumococcal diseases. Another factor that makes it critical is the environmental risk that includes air pollution, exhaust of vehicles, use of blowing horns and blow of dust etc. So, it is important for all to understand why it is crucial to fight such a deadly disease which did not get due attention earlier and can be prevented through vaccination.
It would be great if the government can come up with policies and programmes to implement the vaccinations among adults. This will help in creating a standardized and universalized procedure to include adults of mid-age segments under the list and make India a safer place to live in.
In the long-run, it will be crucial for insurance companies to enter this segment and help government in the implementation process of vaccinations across the country. Going by the health economics, if the insurance players actively devise policies and programs to include such preventive vaccinations, the cost of insurance companies will reduce substantially over longer term. So, just by the virtue of spending Rs. 2000-3000 per head, we will be able to vaccinate a large chunk of Indian adult population that is prone to pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases.
Vaccinations will help in building the overall immunity quotient of the people of the country. It will also eliminate chances of occurrence of pneumococcal pneumonia during any medical treatment in future. This will provide indirect protection in reducing transmission of the disease within the family and will increase the life expectancy of productive citizen of the country, in turn, reducing the burden on the country’s healthcare system.
(The author is a President – Maharaja Agrasen Hospital Charitable Trust Industrialist and Philanthropist & Co-founder, Consocia Advisory. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)