According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, preterm and low-birth-weight infants are generally at increased risk of infection and have an increased frequency and severity of vaccine-preventable infections.
In Colombia, according to DANE, in 2022 the rate of preterm births was 11.0%, which is 4 percentage points more than in 2021. And for every 1,000 live births, there were 104.4 newborns weighing less than 2,500 g.
Vaccination is the world’s surest way to protect children from deadly diseases, as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).(3) Vaccination is gaining importance in preterm infants because they have not yet completed their developmental process and have not yet undergone full prenatal immunological maturation and would therefore be at risk of developing serious diseases The risk of suffering complications or requiring hospitalization is increasing, warns the Colombian Association of Neonatology (ASCON)(4), which will hold its VIII National Congress from August 16–18.
In Colombia, according to reports from the National Administration of Statistics (DANE), in 2022, live births under 37 weeks accounted for 11.0% of all births reported that year, 0.4 percentage points more than what was registered in 2021. And for every 1,000 live births, 104.4 were born with low birth weight, i.e., weighing less than 2,500 grams.
Because of these two conditions, obesity and prematurity, babies may be more likely to suffer from vaccine-preventable infections and more severely, according to data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Therefore, it is important to promote timely vaccination in this group of newborns, which produces the fewest possible side effects.1
With this in mind, it is worth noting the importance of combined acellular vaccines, such as the hexavalent vaccine, in mitigating the side effects of vaccination and protecting against six diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis B, with a single biological agent, and polio. In addition, they can mean economic savings for the country.
Acellular vaccines are those that contain cellular portions of the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough. The Colombian Red Cross explains: “By leaving only important parts of these bacteria, side effects are reduced, the immune system is activated, and the number of defenses is increased.” For this reason, acellular vaccines are considered a less painful alternative that retains the benefits of traditional vaccines and protects the baby or child.”(5)
According to Dr. Ofelina Vergara, Medical Director of Sanofi Vaccines for the COPAC region, this type of vaccine brings significant benefits for everyone involved:
- In newborns, it improves adherence and timeliness to vaccination schedules, leads to fewer side effects, and relieves pain and discomfort.
- For parents, this means fewer visits to medical centers, freeing up time for other activities and greatly reducing anxiety symptoms.
- In front of the eyes of healthcare professionals and nursing staff, it allows fewer mistakes to be made when administering the biological drug and improves the efficiency of daily practice.
- And for public health, it allows, among other things, to expand vaccination coverage, reduce potential outbreaks, reduce vaccination costs, and facilitate inventory and cold chain management.
Advantages of the hexavalent acellular vaccine
Various experts agree that the use of combined acellular vaccines offers important advantages both for the healthcare system and for the vaccination experience of preterm or newborn babies.
Doctor and researcher Martn Romero from the Center for Economic Research, Management and Health Technologies of the Fundación Salutia in Bogotá pointed out Cost minimization study and budget analysis of the introduction of the hexavalent vaccine in the EPI At the national level, it was found that using the all-liquid combined hexavalent vaccine would reduce all hidden costs associated with the vaccination process, affecting the efficiency of the plan. And he emphasized that the savings in immuno preventable infectious diseases from the use of the hexavalent acellular vaccine in preterm infants would be $1.7 million per year.
Additionally, Dr. Ofelina Vergara stresses that “Vaccinating preterm infants with this 6-in-1 biological can significantly reduce the costs associated with managing adverse, logistical, and social events, reducing the overall cost of vaccination by 19%. In fact, it is said that for each early vaccination with the hexavalent (3+0) primary system, about 220,000 Colombian pesos ($67) would be saved.
Regarding the vaccination process, ASCON emphasizes that the hexavalent vaccine, which provides protection against six pathologies, “represents the best option to ensure better compliance with the PAI program for preterm infants in our country.”This vaccine reduces pain at multiple punctures and the number of adverse events such as crying fits, hypotension, acute febrile symptoms, seizures, or apnea.”(7)