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Policy & Global Development

Childhood Pneumonia: The Impact of the Pandemic and What Needs to Be Done Now

Series | COVID-19 and other pandemics #49


[This document is one of a series of discussion notes addressing fundamental questions about global health. Its purpose is to transfer scientific knowledge into the public conversation and the decision-making process. These documents are based on the best information available and may be updated as new information comes to light].


Pneumonia is the infectious disease that causes the most deaths among children. Before the pandemic, it caused 2,000 children under the age of five to lose their lives every day around the world. Most of these deaths were concentrated in the poorest regions of the world.

COVID-19 was added to the multiple reasons for these figures in 2020. The pandemic added disease burden, hindered access to primary care services and limited medical oxygen, in addition to disrupting newborn care, access to antibiotics and the supply of pneumonia vaccines. The result was, according to Johns Hopkins University, that more than 25,000 additional children died each month from pneumonia and neonatal sepsis.

The pandemic has also deteriorated other non-health, social variables associated with the incidence of childhood pneumonia, such as nutrition or precarious housing.

How to respond to this impact? The strategy can be articulated around four areas: prevention (expanding vaccination coverage), protection (ensuring adequate nutrition), diagnosis and treatment (in the event of clinical suspicion, appropriate referral to a health center that has oxygen for medical use and amoxicillin) and innovation and access (accelerating technological innovations that allow interventions with greater impact). To this end, coordinated and integrated international action is essential.

We detail it in this new analysis document published in the series "COVID-19 and the other pandemics" written by Daniel G. Abiétar (resident physician specialising in Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Parc de Salut Mar - Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona Teaching Unit (PSMar-UPF-ASPB ) and Quique Bassat (ICREA Research Professor and Head of the Malaria Program at ISGlobal).