PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has started preparations to include typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) in its routine immunisation programme as part of the government’s plan to protect people against the vaccine-preventable disease.

Pakistan became the first country to launch TCV in Sindh province on November 15.

“The inclusion of TCV is being done phase-wise; in Sindh it has been introduced after the recent campaign, in Punjab the campaign will be held in March/April 2020, and in KP the campaign is tentatively planned for Oct/Nov 2020, so it will become part of our expanded programme on immunisation,” EPI director Dr Mohammad Salim told Dawn.

WHO-recommended TCV is the first typhoid vaccine which can be given to children as young as six months of age and it provides longer term protection against typhoid. Pakistan recorded 63 per cent of typhoid cases among children below 15 years of age in 2017 of which 70 per cent died.

It is a highly contagious disease that spreads more quickly and easily when people live in crowded neighbourhoods with weak water and sanitation infrastructure, according to the world health agency. It is preventable and vaccination is one of the most effective interventions to reduce typhoid infections, it said.

Initiative to protect people against the preventable disease

The WHO warns that typhoid, a serious illness caused by Salmonella Typhi, spreads through contaminated food and water and disproportionally impacts children and low-resource communities in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The global burden of disease study estimates that in 2017 there were nearly 11 million typhoid cases and over 1,16, 000 typhoid deaths worldwide.

The typhoid conjugate vaccine offers a good solution to protect children from falling ill and from drug-resistant typhoid, a WHO statement said.

“We commend the government of Pakistan for prioritising the health of children with the introduction of the vaccine,” it said.

The WHO has issued formal recommendation in support of TCV’s introduction in March 2018 to put brakes on deaths caused by typhoid. Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations has allocated $85 million to support eligible countries with the introduction of TCV into their routine immunisation programmes.

“The rise of extreme drug-resistant typhoid risks bringing us back to levels of mortality not seen since the 19th century, posing a risk to all of us due to which TCV was so important and the government of Pakistan deserves praise for being the first to introduce this lifesaver into its routine immunisation programme,” it said.

Dr Salim said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had planned to improve water and sanitation services in line with the federal government’s guideline to safeguard children against preventable ailments.

Presently, the government has been giving free vaccination to the people at the EPI centres. The children receive vaccination for 10 childhood sicknesses, including TB, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, meningitis, polio, pneumonia, rotavirus and measles, he said.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2019