Despite the availability of free vaccines under EPI program against 10 diseases, Sindh has not more than 50% coverage,” revealed Pakistan Paediatric Association officials while addressing a press briefing to observe World Immunization Week. The drive was supported by GSK Pakistan.
‘‘They said that lack of awareness among parents is the biggest reason of low coverage. If we can push coverage rate to 90%, we can eradicate many diseases claiming precious lives. Vaccines do not only save lives but also help develop immunity in children against many diseases, resulting in low reliance on antibiotics,” they added.
Dr. Khalid Shafi, General Secretary PPA Sindh said, “life-threatening infectious diseases can be treated and controlled through immunization which also reduces the disease burden. Vaccines also play a major role in eliminating and preventing diseases including diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus.”
Every year due to vaccines, approximately 3,000,000 deaths are prevented. Immunization is estimated to save 2-3 million lives every year. An estimated 19.5 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines. If the optimum rates of immunization or “herd immunity” are not maintained, the diseases prevented by vaccination will return, he added.
Dr. M. N. Lal, Treasurer PPA said “It is a commendable initiative of Government to include Rotavirus Vaccine in EPI program as in Pakistan, Rotavirus leads to 1 out of 3 infant hospitalizations and almost every child gets infected with Rotavirus by their 5th birthday.”
Moreover, Pneumococcal meningitis is the most common form of meningitis and the most serious form of bacterial meningitis. Very young children – as young as a few months old and up to the age of 2, are at the highest risk of pneumococcal meningitis. Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two biggest killers of Children not only in Pakistan but around the globe and vaccinations can help fight this menace, added Dr. Lal.
Dr. Jamil Akhtar, Chairman PPA Karachi Chapter stressed on the need for vaccination said that “Vaccination can reduce the usage of some antibiotics. So, they can tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. Vaccines activate antibodies that fight off the disease at hand, without actually giving you the disease. They trick us into fighting a disease we don’t have, so that our body is prepared to fight it off if we are exposed it in the future.”
He added that every year, vaccines prevent 6 million deaths worldwide. Vaccines are the most affordable solution when it comes to preventing certain health hazards. They can prevent even death that is caused by diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, diarrhea and pneumonia. Moreover, if people are not vaccinated, diseases that have become uncommon such as pertussis (whooping cough), polio and measles, will quickly re-appear.
General Secretary PPA Centeral, Dr. Mushtaq Memon said that Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was established in 1978, EPI currently aims to vaccinate approximately 6 million children aged 0-11 months against 10 target diseases: Childhood Tuberculosis, Polio, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Diarrhea, Hepatitis B, aemophilus Influenza Type b (HIB), Pneumonia, Measles and Tetanus.
“Parents should not compromise on immunization of their children as it saves them from illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. All the stakeholders have to join hands to create awareness and save the future generation of Pakistan from deadly diseases,” he concluded.