KARACHI: Pakistan Pediatrics Association (PPA-Sindh) President and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) Director Professor Jamal Raza has called for active involvement of parents in mandatory vaccination of children against pneumonia.
On the eve of World Pneumonia Day observed on Sunday, he said that pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. “Despite the fact that free of cost vaccination is available under Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) in the country to prevent pneumonia, yet it continues to kill as many as 92,000 children less than five years of age annually,” regretted the senior child specialist.
Professor Jamal Raza said that the most common causes of pneumonia amongst children include Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza type-b (Hib), which could be easily prevented and managed through adequate vaccination against the disease. “It is to be noted that vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in reducing infectious diseases,” he added.
According to the World Health Organisation estimates, pneumonia accounts for 16 per cent of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children of less than five years of age globally. “Globally, the disease accounts for more than 920,000 deaths among children under five and Pakistan is among top five countries which account for 99 per cent of childhood pneumonia cases,” said Raza.
He also informed that the disease 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 a healthy person breathes) are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake,” he added.
PPA-Sindh General Secretary, and Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Head of Pediatrics Department Dr Khalid Shafi, supplementing his colleague said that children under five years of age with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation, a condition known as lower chest wall indrawing.
“Young infants may suffer from convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem,” he said.
“Preventing children from developing pneumonia in the first place is critical to reducing its death toll,” said Baqai Medical University Pediatrics Professor Dr Jalal Akbar.
PPA-Sindh vice president and PPA-Karachi vice chairman said that pneumonia vaccine was introduced by Pakistan’s EPI programme in October of 2012.
Mentioning that this achievement made Pakistan become the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunisation programme, the officials said that most of the children brought with pneumonia are registered to be malnourished which is very alarming.
“Proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines are important to fight pneumonia,” said PPA-Karachi Chairman Dr Jameel Akhtar. Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from occurring, he added.
He also emphasised that preventing pneumonia averts treatment costs and other loses due to illness and allows children to become healthy and productive adults.
Vaccines hold the promise of saving millions of children from dying from pneumonia, said the child specialists and urged the parents to participate in the immunisation process to expand vaccine coverage and save 2.9 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness.