Secretary Clinton’s pneumonia news had spread quickly around the world. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/12/us/politics/hillary-clinton-campaign-pneumonia.html?_r=0
A friend of ours in Bangalore was hospitalized by an attack of pneumonia and spent many days in the ICU. Both cases raised one question in my mind. Had the person been given a pneumonia vaccine injection earlier? If not, why not?
This website run by CDC, a US Govt. agency, says that two-thirds of the adults in the US above 65 have taken pneumonia vaccine, but then one-third of the population in the US above 65 and not covered by the vaccine is over 15 million. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/pneumonia.htm
It is not, therefore, surprising that “each year in the United States, about 1 million people have to seek care in a hospital due to pneumonia, and about 50,000 people die from the disease. Most of the people affected by pneumonia in the United States are adults”. Their hospital and school systems ensure that children are pretty well covered by vaccines.
We are a long way off in India from protecting our adult population from avoidable cases of pneumonia. The poor state of health care for the bulk of the population makes this very difficult. The number of deaths in India due to flu and pneumonia is over 500,000 per year.
For a moment, let us look at people like the readers of this blog. Many of them probably undergo an annual medical test costing a few thousand rupees. This usually includes a consultation with a doctor. Have you heard a doctor in that situation ask you if you have ever taken a pneumonia vaccine? Or, a flu vaccine? Suppose you are overweight, but not obese, and do not have condition like diabetes or high blood pressure. (To be labelled obese, an adult has to be about 30 pounds over the prescribed weight). Do you think that the doctor would talk to you about your weight and encourage you to shed some of it?
Benjamin Franklin said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Why don’t our doctors focus on preventive care?
I will conclude that in most cases of death by pneumonia below the age of 80, the cause of death should be identified as “lack of preventive health care”. I am not saying that pneumonia vaccine will give you a guarantee of surviving an attack of pneumonia. It is enough for me if it significantly increases the chances that you will avoid the attack.