Pneumococcal Surveillance Project (PSP) Press Briefing

16 March 2016

The Gambia Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), and the MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) called on all the press offices in The Gambia on Friday 4 March 2016, to disseminate the study results from the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project conducted in the Upper River Region of The Gambia. This forum is the first to engage and share study findings with the media to facilitate a wider dissemination of the results, especially in the rural areas.

PSP Press briefing 2The briefing attracted over 25 press officers from various press offices including; The Mirror; Kora Frequency modulation (FM); Foroyaa; City Limits Radio; The Voice Newspaper; Teranga FM; Janneh Koto FM, Gunjur; Kaira FM,  Kombo East; Daily Observer; Gambia Radio and Television Services; The Point; Gambia Now; Bwiam Community Radio and Afri Radio.

The results are part of the PSP based at the MRC Unit The Gambia, funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation’s Pneumococcal Vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Programme, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Medical Research Council, UK. The results from the PSP study which aims to determine the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) delivered within the Gambian Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), showed that the use of PCV in the EPI programme reduced severe pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis in children by 55%. These results were published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases and is the first publication concerning the impact of PCV in a low-income country.

According to Dr Grant Mackenzie, the Principal Investigator for PSP, “pneumococcal disease is very severe; children in The Gambia who develop serious pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis have a 1 in 7 chance of dying, even with appropriate treatment. The Gambia’s EPI should be very pleased that their investment in the PCV programme has reduced the number of children who develop these conditions by 55%. Because the vaccine impact project in Basse was set in a routine EPI, other low-income countries that use PCV in a routine manner with reasonable coverage can expect a substantial impact on pneumococcal disease.”

According to honourable Omar Sey, Minister of Health and Social Welfare, “the collaboration that exists between MRCG and MOHSW is based on 3 principles; being frank, transparent and honest. Between October 2014 to September 2015, 41,841 cases were reported, out of which 5,305 children were admitted for severe pneumonia and out of these number, 119 children later died of this disease. Pneumonia has always been a burden on government’s expenditure but the introduction of the PCV’s vaccines into the Gambia EPI Programme significantly reduced health related costs.”

Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, MRCG Director said “the results of  this study was successfully achieved with the collaboration of The Gambia Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to improve health and save lives. The information provided from this study will help to inform health policy (Pneumococcal diseases) in The Gambia and will facilitate the introduction and maintenance of PCV’s in sub Saharan Africa.”

Dawda Sowe, EPI Manager thanked MRCG, for providing the enabling environment to ensure Gambian children are health free from pneumococcal related diseases. The 55% reduction in severe pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis in children is a great milestone achieved with the introduction of PCV 7 and PCV 13, in over a 7 year period.

Acknowledgement: The Upper River Region community, the PSP team, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and all partners.

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