A LEADING health expert in South America has warned the government against downgrading its pneumococcal vaccine from PCV 13 to PCV 10, and disputed a World Health Organization report saying there is little difference between the two vaccines.
“According to the WHO, both vaccines are similar. This is where we don’t agree,” Luis Villatoro, president of the Pediatric Association of El Salvador, told reporters in Manila during a teleconference the other day.
He said while both pneumococcal conjugate vaccines PCV 13 and 10 are “very good and capable to deal with diseases, each has its own capacity to deal with certain diseases since pneumococcus is not just one bacteria. It’s a family of bacteria”.
PCV 13 has proven to be superior to PCV 10 because it protects against three more pneumococcus strains, including serotype 19a, which is one of the most invasive and virulent.
Serotype 19a can spread easily from children to adults, and has shown to be resistant to antibiotics.
Villatoro said El Salvador’s own experience with using both vaccines simultaneously proved to be a costly mistake.
El Salvador was already using PCV 13 when the WHO came out with a position paper that said nations could opt for either PCV 13 or 10 and purportedly get the same protection at a lower cost.
“Authorities thought it was a good idea to switch from PCV 13 to 10 to save money,” he said. “But in the long run, it became more expensive and more troublesome for health personnel.”
He said there was, for instance, a problem with stockpile, as one type of vaccine would run out.
“We ran out of one or the other vaccine. So, they had a lot of problems in the year and a half they were introducing one vaccine, and they had the other running,” he said.
He said El Salvador eventually decided last year to switch back to PCV 13. “We thought it was better for our population” and El Salvador’s experience should prove instructive for the Philippines.
“Our lessons learned in this process is that if you’re doing okay, if you already have the budget and doing okay with the vaccine you’re working now, it’s better to continue working with that. To change may lead to a bigger price,” he said.
The Philippines has been using PCV 13 but is now considering switching to PCV 10 to save money.
Pneumonia kills over 50,000 people in the Philippines each year, making it the country’s third most deadly disease, and the No. 1 cause of death among children.