Poor immunisation coverage: Health experts call for rigorous accountability

Only 80 per cent of all children under the age of two were vaccinated in 2011.


Sehrish Wasif April 25, 2013
The immunisation coverage rate is reportedly below 65 per cent, and is the cause of over 70,000 child deaths annually. PHOTO: REUTERS / FILE

ISLAMABAD:


Health experts attributed the poor immunisation coverage across Pakistan to the government’s lack of political will and accountability. They were speaking at a joint launching ceremony for World Immunisation Week and Mother and Child Health Week respectively at a local hotel in Islamabad on Wednesday. 


The event was organised by the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

The immunisation coverage rate is reportedly below 65 per cent, and is the cause of over 70,000 child deaths annually.

Unicef’s Acting Representative Karen Allen said the theme for World Immunisation Week 2013, ‘Stop Measles Now,’ was chosen in view of reminding the government and donors of their role in raising awareness amongst the public about fatal diseases and strengthening the nationwide immunisation campaign.

“Pakistan has much to do to ensure its population enjoys the full benefits of vaccination,” she said.

Allen said only 80 per cent of all children under the age of two were fully immunised in 2011, while over 800,000 children did not receive their due treatment each year.

“In 2011, around 352,000 children died before their fifth birthday, the fourth highest number of any country in the world,” she said.

At present, 80 daily and 600 weekly cases of measles are reported in Punjab, of which 50 have succumbed to the disease, she added.

“Parents should be aware of the importance of administering all vaccines to their children to prevent them from becoming disease victims,” said Allen.

WHO Pakistan acting chief Dr Nima Saeed Abid said poor immunisation coverage was one of the major reasons behind high infant mortality rates in the country.

“Sadly, Pakistan is not on course to attain the desired targets of Millennium Development Goal four by 2015,” he said. Abid said Pakistan had the potential to overcome its health issues but lacked strong political leadership and a proper accountability system.

“All eyes will be on the incoming government to provide better healthcare facilities to the people, a basic right they are entitled to,” he said.

Public health expert and media representative Dr Moeed Pirzada called on all media outlets to disseminate strong public service messages on various health issues.

IPC Additional Secretary Furqan Bahadur Khan said a lack of government responsibility, not a shortage of vaccines, was to be blamed for the recent outbreak of measles in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2013.

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