To curtail pneumonia death toll among children, pneumococcal vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization from 2012.
This was announced by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Health and Nutrition Chief Mohammed Cisse at a seminar, titled “Fight Pneumonia- Save a Child”, organised by the Aga Khan Health Service Pakistan (AKHSP) to mark World Pneumonia Day at a local hotel here on Saturday.
Cisse said that a single dose of pneumococcal vaccine costs Rs5,300 and on average four to five doses are required to treat the disease. Hence the vaccine becomes unaffordable for many and including it in the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) can improve the situation. He said that UNICEF is coordinating with the government of Pakistan through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization initiative in this regard.
Cisse said 5,200 children die of pneumonia every year, of which 67% under the age of five are taken to an appropriate health care provider and only 50% of these are treated with antibiotics. “One reason for this is lack of awareness among parents of the importance of taking preventive steps for their children. Most of these lives can be saved by having knowledge about prevention and treatment of pneumonia, promotion of some key measures at home and appropriate healthcare seeking practices,” he said.
Cisse said there is a strong need for coordinated effort for deployment of community midwives, their adequate supervision for pneumonia case management, counselling and referral. He further said that clinical efficacy of pneumonia treatment should be regularly monitored to revise national treatment policies as necessary, based on antimicrobial resistance information and clinical outcomes, among other data.
Meanwhile, health experts expressed concern over the 18% death rate among children due to pneumonia in Pakistan in spite of advancements in the field of medicine, holding poverty to be a major contributor.
Punjab Community Program’s Manager Irshad Ali said it is very unfortunate that parents self-medicate their children instead of referring to doctors. Pims’ Child Specialist Dr Shirin Gull said breastfeeding, a balanced diet, family planning and properly washing hands can save 60% children from dying due to pneumonia in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2011.