William Schaffner, MD, is professor of preventive medicine and medicine (infectious diseases) at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. Additionally, he serves as a hospital epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University Hospital and is immediate past-president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

World Pneumonia Day: A reminder to all of us to take action

Saturday, Nov. 12 is the Third Annual World Pneumonia Day. Again this year I urge you to consider the enormous impact of pneumonia on children across the world and to take a few minutes out of your day to help.

Consider just these few simple facts:

  • Pneumonia is the leading killer of children under age 5 worldwide
  • Pneumonia claims a young life every 20 seconds
  • Pneumonia deaths can be greatly reduced by vaccination (Hib, pneumococcal, influenza, and measles), more access to antibiotic treatments, and supportive healthcare

World Pneumonia Day organizers have listed five things you can do to support their efforts to save lives. You’ll find them on the left side of the World Pneumonia Day home page. Most of them don’t take very long. In this technology and information age, simply making others aware of this problem can have an impact. For the technology minded among us, think about how little time it takes to add a post to your Facebook page or send a Tweet to make your friends and followers more aware of the problem and ways to help. You can even add a “Twibbon” to your Twitter or Facebook profile with only a few easy steps.

As you think about protecting children in the developing world, where limited resources are a major barrier, think about how we in the US sometimes neglect to use the resources we have. Just last week, CDC reported that not all eligible children are getting a supplemental dose of PCV13. It is recommended at 15 through 59 months for children who received PCV7 earlier. Children in this country are needlessly developing serious pneumococcal disease caused by strains that could be prevented by PCV13 vaccination.

Our efforts fall even shorter in adults, which is why they account for 85 percent of all invasive pneumococcal disease in the US. We all need to do our part every day—recommend vaccines to your patients, tell your colleagues at every opportunity that vaccines are safe, effective and essential tools for the health of individuals and our society.

Let’s all commit to doing our part both at home and abroad to help protect children and adults from vaccine-preventable diseases.