ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is among top five countries which account for 99pc of childhood pneumonia cases and around 92,000 children die of pneumonia annually in Pakistan before reaching the age of five.

Despite the fact that free vaccination against pneumonia is available under Extended Programme for Immunisation (EPI), the figure is unfortunate.

This was stated by President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Central and Dean of Pediatrics at Rawalpindi Medical University Professor Dr Rai Mohammad Asghar in a statement issued on the eve of World Pneumonia Day.

He said according to the World Health Organisation estimates, pneumonia accounts for 16pc of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children less than five years of age globally.

“Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation. Young infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem,” said Professor Rai.

President PPA Federal Prof Dr Shahzad Munir said that pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi.

“Preventing children from developing pneumonia in the first place is critical to reducing its death toll. Fortunately Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (pneumonia vaccine) was introduced in Pakistan’s EPI program in October 2012, and this achievement made Pakistan to become the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunisation programme,” he said.

Paediatrician Prof Dr Tabish Hazir said that proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines were important to fight pneumonia. Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring, he added.

“Preventing pneumonia averts treatment costs and other losses due to illness, and allows children to become healthy, productive adults. Vaccines hold promise of saving millions of children from dying of pneumonia. Parents participation for immunization and increase in vaccine coverage would also save 2.9 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2017

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