“Current evidence points to an effective pneumococcal vaccine that could begin to save lives now. We cannot afford to wait until another million children die next year. We must act now.”

Adenike Grange

President of the International Pediatric Association

The Gambia study is the first trial in 20 years to show significant reduction in child mortality

The Gambia

The Gambia: Life-Saving Potential in Rural Settings

Two vaccine efficacy studies in Africa with the 9-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in The Gambia and South Africa demonstrate that multi-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are safe and effective even for HIV-positive children and have the potential to make a major health impact especially in rural settings where access to treatment is limited.

The Gambia study investigators, led by Felicity Cutts of the British Medical Research Council, concluded that pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has a high efficacy against radiological pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease in a rural African setting, and can substantially reduce hospital admissions and improve child survival. They recommended that pneumococcal conjugate vaccines should be made available to African infants.

This was the first major randomized, controlled vaccine clinical trial in nearly 20 years to show significant reduction in child mortality.

The trial results were:

  • overall reduction of childhood mortality by 16% in children vaccinated with the 9-valent
  • in other words, 7 child deaths were prevented for every 1000 vaccinated children
  • the 9-valent was 77% effective in preventing pneumococcal infections caused by the vaccine serotypes
  • 37% fewer hospital cases of pneumonia in the children who received the vaccine compared with children who received the control vaccine.

A previous study showed that this vaccine was effective in reducing the number of pneumococcal infections in children in urban South Africa. But many of the children suffering from pneumococcal disease in Africa live in rural areas with high infant mortality rates, significant rates of malaria transmission and very limited access to healthcare. The Gambia is representative of these areas, and the results of the study suggest that the deaths caused by pneumococcal infections in rural Africa are preventable.