92,000 children die annually in Pakistan due to Pneumonia

Karachi: President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Central Prof Dr Iqbal Memon on Monday 92,000 children of age under 5 years die annually in Pakistan due to Pneumonia. He expressed these views at a media briefing at local hotel in connection of World Pneumonia Day falling on 12th November. Director National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and Secretary General PPA Prof Syed Jamal Raza was also present.

He said pneumonia, a killer disease, is the biggest cause of child mortality around the globe, killing a child every 30 seconds which contributes 18 percent of the total global child deaths.

Prof Memon said 12th November marks the commemoration of government commitment towards providing each and every child vaccination that it is required to achieve millennium development goals. He said approximately 3,000,000 death are prevented and 750,000 children are saved from disability every year due to vaccines.

He said despite the provision of free vaccination through EPI, in province like Punjab only 56 percent coverage is achieved and the situation of other provinces is even worse

He informed that pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli (small sacs in lungs which fill with air when healthy person breathes) are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen. He said infants and children younger than age 2 years are at higher risk of contracting pneumonia as their immune systems are still developing.

He said symptoms of pneumonia in children include rapid or difficult breathing, cough, fever, chills, headaches, loss of appetite and wheezing. He said children may also face difficulty in breathing, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation (known as lower chest wall in-drawing).

Prof Jamal Raza said the Pakistani government introduced the pneumococcal vaccine last year in its EPI program, making Pakistan the first South Asian nation to provide free vaccination against pneumonia to infants. He said inclusion of vaccine alone is not enough; it is an equal responsibility of the parent to ensure timely visits to the EPI center and to get their children vaccinated against pneumonia and other deadly diseases.

He stressed that after hygiene, immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating the life-threatening disease and it is the most cost-effective health investment. He said vaccines can protect children by preparing their bodies to fight many potentially deadly diseases.

He said vaccination are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common around the world, including smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, (whooping cough) rubella (German measles) mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) was launched in Pakistan during 1976 and providing vaccines to every child of Pakistan free of cost. The EPI aims to protect children against 9 vaccine preventable disease; Polio, Tuberculosis, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hib disease, Measles and Pneumonia, of which pneumonia is the latest addition.

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (pneumonia vaccine) was introduced in Pakistan’s EPI program in October 2012. Despite the government efforts, an unavoidable 46 percent of children of population in Pakistan still remain non-immunized leading to child mortality, he concluded.

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