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Surveillance study shows vaccine halves pneumococcal disease cases in Gambian children

03 Mar 2016

Results from a vaccine surveillance study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal show for the first time the real-life, positive impact of pneumococcal vaccine introduction in a low-income country.

The Gambia Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, worked with the MRC Unit, The Gambia to determine the impact of the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines on severe pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis, delivered within the Gambian Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).

The study was conducted over an eight year period in Basse in the rural east of The Gambia. Led by Principal Investigator, Dr Grant Mackenzie, the study enrolled 14,650 patients and measured the real-life impact of the vaccine in The Gambia.

Results show that the use of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in the Gambian EPI reduced severe pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis in children by 55 per cent.

The results demonstrate that spending money on pneumococcal conjugate vaccines and delivering the vaccine with reasonable coverage can substantially reduce rates of disease. Reducing the number of cases of disease can, in turn, save lives and reduce a substantial economic burden on the health system and families.

“We are talking about a very severe disease; children in The Gambia who develop serious pneumococcal pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis have a one-in-seven chance of dying,” explains Dr Mackenzie. “The Gambia’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation should be very pleased that their investment in the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine programme has reduced the number of children who develop these conditions by 55 per cent.”

The study team hopes this evidence will help encourage uptake of the vaccine in other low-income countries.

Dr Mackenzie says: “Because the vaccine impact project in Basse was set in a routine Expanded Programme on Immunisation, other low-income countries that use pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in a routine manner with reasonable coverage can expect substantial impact on pneumococcal disease.”

Dr Grant Mackenzie presented the results in Geneva to the WHO EPI Department and The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation on Monday 8 February 2016.

The Pneumococcal Surveillance Project is based at the MRC Unit, The Gambia, and co-funded by the MRC, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation Pneumococcal Vaccines Accelerated Development and Introduction Programme, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project was done in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, The Gambia; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; University of Otago; International Vaccine Access Centre at Johns Hopkins University; Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne; and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, Seattle.

Acknowledgement: The Upper River Region community in The Gambia, the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project team, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and all partners.

Find out more about this story in our blog and read the published study on The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.


  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Infection
  • Strategic objectives: Securing impact from medical research, International partnerships and shaping the agenda, Global health
  • Locations: The Gambia
  • Type: News article, Success story