QUETTA: The mayor of Quetta, Dr Kalee­mullah Khan, has stressed the need for creating awareness about the necessity of vaccinating children against pneumonia, a disease responsible for thousands of children’s death in the country each year.

Talking to a group of councillors from Quetta division here on Saturday, he said pneumococcal vaccine could help in reducing the number of deaths by pneumonia.

He said that not only the parents of a child but also other members of the family, such as grandparents, needed to be convinced that the vaccine is necessary for the child’s good health. They should ensure that children in their family have been immunised against all the 10 childhood diseases, he added.

The mayor said unless all members of the family do not take interest in saving children from fatal diseases efforts made by the government, Gavi and other partners of the United Nations for increasing access to immunisation would not achieve their goals.

Quetta mayor wants councillors to create awareness about vaccine

The childhood immunisation is a set of scheduled inoculations given to children from their birth to 15-month of age in order to protect them from dangerous diseases, such as diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, pneumonia, diarrhoea, tetanus, meningitis, polio, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B. Booster doses are later required for some vaccines. Vaccines against these diseases are provided free of cost by the government.

Pneumonia is still one of the major killers of children under the age of five years in Pakistan. The major reason is limited routine immunisation coverage — a little more than 50 per cent of children are covered nationally, and the numbers of children immunised has even been declining in Balochistan.

The vaccine is being delivered through a partnership between the Pakistan government, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that supports and finances vaccines in the world’s poorest countries, including Pakistan.

The provincial coordinator of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), Dr Ishaq Panezai, said on the occasion that representatives of local governments could play an effective role in creating awareness about the importance of immunisation. They could inform parents that vaccines for their children were available free of cost by the government, he said, adding that the cost of these vaccines was Rs32,000.

“Parents need to be motivated to bring their children to EPI centres. Because the polio campaign was taken door to door, parents think other vaccinations should also be brought to their door step,” Dr. Panezai said, adding that parents should be informed that these vials cannot travel long distances as they lose their efficacy if temperature not maintained and that when a vial is opened it can be used for five to 20 children.

Immunisation is one of the most important advances in public health and it has saved more lives in the world than any other health intervention.

Nevertheless, due to low coverage in the country vaccine-preventable diseases still result in significant costs to individuals and the society in Pakistan.

Marked with a percentage of 16 immunised children Balochistan holds the lowest position amongst the provinces of Pakistan. Major reasons behind the alarming situation stand an inadequate allocation of financial and human resources to the EPI programme, management of the programme at the provincial and district levels, non-availability of data regarding the population figures, vaccine availability, storage/handling and above all awareness and willingness of the masses to get their children vaccinated.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2017

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