The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) health department has decided in a meeting on Saturday to provide the pneumococcal vaccine in two months in an effort to fight pneumonia.
Parents will be required to get their children three pneumonia immunisation doses in the 14 weeks after the child’s birth. The list of vaccinations includes those for tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis, meningitis, pneumonia and measles.
An advocacy seminar discussing the new vaccine was held on Saturday by the K-P Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), the Federal Ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination and the Civil Society Human and Institutional Development Programme (CHIP).
The K-P health department is aiming to reduce the mortality rate for children under the age of five, as over 350,000 children die every year across the country, said the deputy director of K-P EPI, Dr Janbaz Afridi.
“We will train technicians and vaccinators in the coming months on the immunisation and tell parents to vaccinate their children soon after the birth,” said Dr Afridi.
He predicted that if the implementation of this vaccine was successful, the government would provide a vaccine for diarrhoea next year.
“The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) and the government of Pakistan will buy the vaccines,” he added. It is estimated that 3 million doses for one year for one million children in the province would be required.
CHIP senior programme manager, Hamid Ullah, said that each dose cost Rs4,600 and will be provided in all hospitals free of cost.
Head of Paediatrics at the Khyber Teaching Hospital, Dr Nadeem Khawar, said that due to pneumonia, 41 out of 1,000 children die in within a month of their birth, 61 in first year and 72 before age five.
Dr Khawar added that the Millennium Development Goal for health could be achieved if the parents vigilantly vaccinated their children. Currently the mortality rate because of pneumonia is 200% more in developing countries compared to developed ones.
Age groups most susceptible to pneumonia include children under five and seniors over 65. Those suffering from HIV, sickle cell diseases and chronic kidney disease are also at a higher risk of attaining pneumococcal infection. Infants who are breast fed and exposed to indoor smoke are also at a high risk.
Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacterium called streptococcus pneumonia, also known as pneumococcus. Diseases caused by pneumococcus include pneumonia, meningitis and bacteraemia—the presence of bacteria in the blood.
The World Health Organisation estimates that over 500,000 children under five years of age die from pneumococcal disease every year across the world. Pakistan is one of the top ten countries with the highest number of pneumococcal cases (681,000) and 27,000 deaths as a result every year.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2012.