KARACHI: Sharing concerns over the growing cases of respiratory illnesses, experts on Thursday urged the general public to opt for vaccination against pneumonia and influenza as chances of complications are greater due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the experts, while vaccination against respiratory diseases does not provide protection against Covid-19 — also a respiratory illness — it’s highly recommended to protect health.

A statement released by the health department stated that 187,000 cases of pneumonia have been reported in a month in children across the province.

“The cases of pneumonia and influenza rise during these months as the weather turns dry and a bit cold. The situation has become challenging this year due to the second wave of Covid-19,” explained senior chest physician Dr Kamran Khan practicing at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).

According to him, at least five patients with suspected community-acquired pneumonia report daily at the chest department, which also receives 15 to 30 cases of suspected Covid-19 every day.

“Since symptoms of both diseases are similar, it’s important to rule out one disease to start targeted treatment.”

187,000 pneumonia cases in children have been reported in a month across Sindh

Dr Khan believed that the actual burden of Covid-19 was quite high as many suspected Covid-19 patients refused admission, fearing tthat that they would be send to the isolation unit. Consequently, they go home and contributed to the spread of the disease in community.

He regretted that currently the influenza vaccine was not available in the market, apparently due to its huge demand in other countries in the wake of spike in Covid-19 cases.

Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, senior general physician, said most of the cases he dealt with daily these days pertained to respiratory illnesses and 80 per cent of them involved children.

“And a significant number of these children are under five years. Both pneumonia and flu could [cause complications] in older adults and children so it’s better that families opt for vaccination against these diseases.”

Dr Shoro, however, also called upon the government to ensure that vaccines were available in the market.

Both the experts emphasised the need for prevention and said wearing of face mask in public and hand hygiene could help prevent many diseases.

Dr Jamal Raza heading the National Institute of Child Health said the pneumococcal vaccine was part of the EPI programme and available in the market. “However, Covid-19 has caused a significant drop in routine immunisation over the past few months. The situation has improved but would take time to fill the gap.”

According to him, two primary doses of pneumococcal vaccine provide 80pc protection against pneumonia.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho in a press statement has called upon parents to get their children younger than two years vaccinated against pneumonia.

“As we mark World Pneumonia Day, I appeal to parents to vaccinate their children against the disease that could be life threatening, if immediate treatment is not given,” she said.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2020

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