Health Experts and NGOs Come Together to Protect Individuals Against Pneumococcal Pneumonia

MSD collaborates with healthcare providers to provide additional protection against other vaccine-preventable disease to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Petaling Jaya, 25 October 2021 – Many people would be surprised to learn that pneumonia has been the second leading cause of death in Malaysia annually over the last decade.1,2,3,4,5,6

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), in 2019, it contributed to approximately 12.2% of deaths in the country.6
Due to the severity of pneumonia, Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) recently donated pneumococcal vaccines in support of several hospitals and NGOs seeking to help protect their patients against Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) infection that can cause the disease.7

A number of experts have lauded the contribution made by the company because they perceive it as an important good-will gesture amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Real dangers of pneumococcal pneumonia

According to Professor Dr Ariza Adnan, Consultant Clinical Microbiologist at the Hospital Universiti Teknologi MARA (HUiTM), S. pneumoniae is a bacterium that can cause air sacs (or alveoli) of the lungs to fill up with fluid and pus. This makes it difficult for the individual to breathe, thus causing blood oxygen to drop to dangerously low levels.8

Professor Ariza, who is also a member of the Immunise4Life Technical Committee, explained that, “S. pneumoniae infection can lead to pneumococcal pneumonia, one of the most common causes of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). 9

We must not underestimate pneumococcal CAP because it accounts for up to 27% of all pneumonia cases worldwide”.10

She stressed that, “Pneumococcal pneumonia has a significant mortality rate in hospitalised patients, ranging from 12 to 30%”. 11

“In the meantime, it would be very distressing if patients diagnosed with pneumococcal pneumonia had to compete for ICU beds, ventilators and healthcare personnel. These hospital resources are in limited supply during the COVID-19 pandemic”.12

Prevention measures

Pneumococcal pneumonia can be effectively prevented by practicing good personal hygiene, leading a healthy lifestyle, not smoking, avoiding second-hand smoke as well as getting vaccinated.13

Ironically, a recent survey by the Malaysian Thoracic Society (MTS) found that more than half (62%) of the respondents were not even aware that vaccination can help protect them from the disease.14

Professor Ariza said, “Advancing age is one of the primary risk factors for pneumococcal pneumonia. Adults 65 years or older are over 10 times more likely to be hospitalised for the disease than adults aged 18 to 49”.15

“Having comorbidities also increase the risk; individuals with diabetes, heart disease and lung conditions (eg COPD) are up to 3, 4 and 9 times more likely to suffer from pneumococcal pneumonia, respectively”.16

Professor Ariza pointed out that a systemic review and meta-analysis study found that 19% of patients with COVID-19 had co-infections. S. pneumoniae was the second most common bacteria that was found among patients with co-infections. This study included data that came from China, European countries as well as the United States of America .17

“This is why, despite the push for COVID-19 vaccination, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and leading experts also recommend high risk individuals to consider pneumococcal prevention.18 Be sure to discuss with your doctor”, she said.

A timely and caring contribution

Ms Pang Lai Li, MSD Managing Director for Malaysia & Singapore, remarked that the decision to donate pneumococcal vaccines to the hospitals and NGOs that reached out to the company for support was made in the spirit of corporate responsibility, MSD’s obligation to society as well as the health and well-being of patients in Malaysia.

She said, “MSD is committed to safeguarding public health with the company’s range of vaccines that are available in the country”.
“Through this donation, we hope to help protect individuals by reducing their risk of getting hospitalised for pneumococcal pneumonia during these trying times.”

Pang added that the contribution leads up to International Day of Older Persons and World Pneumonia Day that are celebrated on October 1 and November 12 respectively this year.

Professor Dr Jamiyah Hassan, a visiting Lecturer and Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist to the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at University Technology Mara (UiTM) thanked MSD for donating its pneumococcal vaccines to UiTM Hospital.

She remarked, “MSD’s gesture enabled us to provide free pneumococcal vaccination to the staff of UiTM who are most in need of the protection it confers, especially those with chronic diseases.”

Dr Murallitharan M., Managing Director of National Cancer Society Malaysia, also expressed his gratitude to MSD for the doses donated to the NGO.

He said, “Patients with malignancies are at higher risk of infection and its complications. This is due to the changes in the immune system that may be caused by the cancer itself, certain types of treatment, or poor nutritional status”.19
“MSD’s pneumococcal vaccines will not only benefit the cancer sufferers we care for, but also the many other underprivileged patients who frequent our clinic.”

Members of the public may learn more about pneumococcal vaccination from

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