Background: Our aim was to evaluate changes in infectious disease mortality in children in Finland from 1969 to 2004. We especially wanted to find out whether infection mortality could be further reduced by means of existing vaccines not included in national vaccination program.
Methods: We analyzed infectious disease mortality in Finland using data obtained from the official Cause of Death statistics for 1969 to 2004. Annual mortality rates were calculated in proportion to those at risk of dying. Infection mortality rates were calculated separately for neonates and children who were 1 month to 15 years.
Results: Childhood mortality due to infectious diseases decreased by 89%, from 0.12% in 1969 to 0.013% in 2004, and neonatal mortality by 69%, from 0.50% to 0.16%. Pneumonia, central nervous system infections and septicemia were the most common fatal infections in childhood. There were slightly more deaths due to all infections and respiratory tract infections in years marked by epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus. We estimated that pneumococcal conjugate vaccines would have prevented 2 deaths annually in our population, rotavirus vaccines 1 to 2 deaths, influenza vaccine 1 death and varicella vaccine 0.7 death.
Conclusions: We found that even though mortality from infectious diseases in childhood decreased markedly during the period concerned, it could have been further reduced by means of existing vaccines. Even though the number of deaths prevented would have been small, the number of years of life saved would have been great because the life expectancy of children is long.