Vaccine to fight pneumonia being unveiled today

But possible electricity cut to EPI warehouses could lead to destruction of the costly vaccine.

Sehrish Wasif October 09, 2012


The government of Pakistan, in collaboration with international donors, is set to introduce the much-awaited Pneumococcal Vaccine in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) to curtail the death toll from pneumonia among children under the age of five.

While millions of rupees are said to have been spent on organising a lavish ceremony for the launch of the vaccine which is going to be held on Tuesday (today) at a five star hotel, with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf invited as the chief guest, the EPI cell is facing a shortage of funds to pay its electricity bill.

This could lead to the suspension of power to 27 warehouses in the capital, where the Pneumococcal Vaccines along with other vaccines worth Rs18 to Rs20 billion are stored.

Even a temporary discontinuation of the electricity supply could destroy the vaccines which would ultimately affect 5.5 million children across Pakistan.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation has donated $680 million, and the government has donated Rs17 million to provide the vaccine till 2015. In the first phase of the programme, it will be introduced in Islamabad and Punjab, and later in other provinces. Only newborn babies will be vaccinated against pneumonia.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 28,000 deaths among children under the age of five will be prevented by inoculating them with the Pneumococcal Vaccine.

When contacted by The Express Tribune, EPI National Manager Dr Zahid Larik confirmed the shortage of funds and said it would try to highlight the issue during the launching ceremony. He also said a request will be made to PM Ashraf to release funds for the EPI to enable it to continue its routine operations.

In addition to the Pneumococcal Vaccine, the EPI will be providing coverage against nine other deadly diseases through the routine immunisation programme, which currently covers polio, measles, BCG (the vaccine against tuberculosis), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hib and hepatitis-B.

Dr Larik claimed the infant mortality rate in Pakistan is 77 per 1,000 live births, out of which 27% of the deaths are caused by pneumonia. He added that currently the cell does not have the funds to purchase vaccines for the routine immunisation programme.

Currently all the provinces, along with Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are totally dependent on the EPI for the vaccines. The provinces have also said that they lack a proper vaccine management mechanism.

“Currently, we have EPI vaccines in stock until October. After that there will be a shortage of vaccines throughout the county and around 5.5 million children will suffer,” Dr Larik warned.

Meanwhile, according to a letter obtained by The Express Tribune and written by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to the EPI cell on October 5, the province needs routine vaccines for the current quarter and has requested for an expedited procedure to avoid any shortage of the vaccines in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2012.


Sexton Blake | 9 years ago | Reply

I was given a pneumonia vaccine, called Pneumovax, eight years ago. It made me extremely ill for several months, and I will never fully recover. Use it at your peril.

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