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ISLAMABAD: Though immunisation is one of the most successful and cost effective means to help children grow into healthy adults, resistance or concerns against the practice have been observed among both educated and non-educated people.

This was stated by Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) consultant Huma Khawar at a workshop on Thursday. The workshop, “Close the immunisation gap” was organised in connection with the world immunisation week starting from April 24.

Ms Khawar said non-educated people, especially mothers-in-law, resisted the routine immunisation because they never had heard of it in the past.

“On the other hand, educated people assume that the vaccine will reduce the natural immunity against diseases. As a result, they try to avoid vaccination. This problem is also faced in the developed countries where educated people show concerns over vaccination,” she said.

EPI sets target of vaccinating 5.8m children under the age of one and 5.9m pregnant women each year

“In Pakistan, every year the EPI targets 5.8 million children (up to the age of one year) and 5.9 million pregnant women to save them from diseases. If nine vaccines are given to a child, he is considered fully immunised,” she said.

Ms Khawar said even today 70pc child deliveries in Pakistan were held at homes, so it becomes difficult to immunise all the children.

“Every child requires three doses of pneumococcal vaccine which is worth Rs14,000 but the government, with the support of donor agencies, has been providing the vaccine free of cost. Moreover, a number of other vaccines are also given to the children,” she said.

“A large number of people lack awareness of the routine immunisation and believe that polio drops are the routine immunisation. Awareness should be created that a routine immunisation is vaccination against nine diseases.”

In reply a question, she said political will and the role of media was very important to eradicate the diseases.

“In 2013, because of the measles outbreak, the media highlighted the issue after a number of children died. As a result, the Punjab government immediately reacted and addressed the issue. Same thing happened in the case of dengue because the media created awareness and the government moved to address the issue,” she said.

“Media should create awareness among the citizens that it is in their own interest to vaccinate their children.” She said only 53pc children were vaccinated in Pakistan while in Balochistan the percentage was only 16pc and in Punjab 62pc.

National Programme Manager EPI Dr Saqlain Gilani said the routine immunisation was the long-term health investment.

Earlier, the participants were informed that immunisation protected people against harmful infections. Immunization uses the body’s natural defence mechanism to build resistance to specific infections.

A vaccine contains a very small dose of live but weakened form of virus, killed bacteria or virus or a modified toxin produced by bacteria. All vaccines currently available in Pakistan are safe. They are tested and approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Even when all the doses of a vaccine are given, not every child is fully protected against the disease. Measles, tetanus, polio and other vaccines protect 95pc of the children who get complete course of vaccination.

The immune system in young children does not work as well as the immune system in older children so they (children) are required vaccination again and again.

Many children experience minor side effects following immunisation. Most of the side effects last a short time and the child recovers without any problem. So people should remember that vaccines are many times safer than the diseases they prevent.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2016