Studies by global vaccine authorities support current claims that the two available pediatric pneumonia vaccines right now have the same effectiveness in decreasing pneumonia disease burden.
Ongoing discussions center on the two child pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) available today—PCV10 and PCV13. These PCVs are designed to protect against several types of pneumococcal bacteria which cause infection. The vaccines also stop the infection from spreading to other people.
In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO), after a systematic literature review, stated “There is at present no evidence of different net impact on overall disease burden between the two products.”
The WHO reaffirmed its earlier position on February 2019 saying that the two available PCVs are equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children. The position paper also states that there is at present insufficient evidence of a difference in the net impact of the two available PCVs on overall disease burden.
In a systematic review of the evidence of the impact and effectiveness of PCV, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) said that available evidence to date indicates significant impact of both PCV10 and PCV13 in the outcomes studied, with no evidence of the superiority of one vaccine over the other on pneumonia, IPD, or meningitis hospitalization reduction in children under 5 years old.
PAHO also reported that, globally, it has been estimated that pneumococcal pneumonia has decreased by more than a third and deaths due to pneumococcal infections by 51% from 2000 to 2015, following the introduction of the PCVs in many countries.
In turn, the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC), in their 2017 PCV product assessment which was based on a comprehensive review of published data, also declared that current evidence does not indicate an added benefit with one vaccine over the other.
In a forum held last week, Dr. Anna Ong Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines echoed the global experts’ take on pneumonia and PCVs.
“Pneumonia is a very common disease in children. Of the hundreds of countries in the world, the Philippines is included in the top 15 countries in terms of pneumonia deaths, and those 15 countries are responsible for 75% of all deaths from pneumonia,” Lim asserted.
She also said that both PCV10 and PCV13 help in controlling the overall disease burden from pneumococcal diseases. “On pneumococcal vaccines, both PCV10 and PCV13 are available, yes. Ano ba ang pinakamagandang match? Makakatulong ba ang either of the two? The answer is yes,” Lim declared.
Just last week, local medical experts and solons called for an open and competitive bidding for child pneumonia vaccines, stating that such a bidding can save hundreds of millions of pesos year after year
that can be used for public health initiatives by the government and save more lives and address more diseases.
The clamor for an open, competitive bid gained ground when it was noted that the initial call for bidding of the Department of Health for PCVs favored only one bidder. The DOH has since suspended the original call for PCV bidding, a move that was lauded by doctors and vaccine experts.
The postponement of the bidding opens the possibility of an open competitive tender that will give the Filipinos the power of choice.
Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo revealed in a press briefing that although the DOH has always called for open tenders, the original call for bidding for PCVs had specifications that were specific to just one vaccine brand.
“Specifications for biddings should be generic so that all brands and suppliers can participate,” Usec. Domingo noted, stressing the reason for the postponement. “We will also refer it to the NIC (National Immunization Committee) to see the vaccines’ cost-effectiveness,” he added.
The NIC is an external advisory group to the Expanded Immunization Program (EPI) office of the DOH. The major role of the NIC is to provide sound, evidence-based advice on matters related to vaccines and vaccination.
In the same press briefing, Rep. Angelina Tan, chair of the House Committee on Health, said that the call for bidding for PCVs should not favor a single supplier. “Specifications in biddings should not favor a single brand. Bids should not lean towards certain companies.”