Immunisation can prevent over 2m deaths in Pakistan

  • PPA president asks parents not to compromise on immunisation of their children

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Paediatric Association Pakistan (PPA) president Prof Dr Rai Muhammad Asghar has said that vaccination and immunisation can prevent more than two million deaths of children under five years of age in Pakistan.

Despite the free availability of vaccination by the government, it is very unfortunate that Pakistan has lowest coverage rate in South Asia, he said in a press briefing to mark upcoming World Immunisation Week. The awareness drive was supported by GSK Pakistan.

‘‘Parents should not compromise on immunisation of their children as it saves them from illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases,” he appealed. He said that life-threatening infectious diseases can be treated and controlled through immunisation which also reduces the disease burden.

He said that the 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.

“An estimated 19.5 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines. If the optimum rates of immunisation or herd immunity are not maintained, the diseases prevented by vaccination will return,” he added. About facts of the deadliest preventable diseases, Dr Rai said that Rotavirus leads to 1 out of 3 infant hospitalisations 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, he said. Similarly, polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause irreversible paralysis.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, which usually results in a high fever and rash, and can lead to blindness, encephalitis or death. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver, he added. He also 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 said.

He said that every year, vaccines prevent six 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.

In Pakistan, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) was established in 1978, EPI currently aims to vaccinate approximately six 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.