Karachi: As many as 27 % of deaths in children of less than five years are due to vaccine preventable diseases, most of which are included in the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI ) while around 1000 deaths in children less than 5 years occur daily in Pakistan, said Dr. Ayesha Mehnaz, General Secretary Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA Central).
While talking on the occasion of world immunization week, she added that our constitution endorses the right of the less privileged and emphasizes on providing medical relief to all citizens irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race. She stated that this year immunization week’s theme also focuses on “closing the immunization gap”.
Pakistan has been lagging behind in controlling the deaths of minors caused by vaccine preventable diseases including pneumonia that kills around 92,000 children per year. Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is still endemic and polio cases are being reported. Similarly, Pakistan needs to do much more to control the other deadly diseases which are taking lives everyday.
Dr Ayesha Mehnaz added that we must realize that the vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in reducing infectious diseases. She added that it is a good sign that the federal government has been striving to allocate more resources for the health sector. This year’s federal budget allocated Rs 26.8 billion for running several national health programmes such as hepatitis, malaria and tuberculosis control.
Meanwhile, Dr. Inkisaar Ali, Consultant Paediatrician and Secretary Expert Committee Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA) termed immunization week as the best way to create awareness among the masses and helping them in getting their children vaccinated. While talking on the occasion he emphasized that without vaccines, epidemics of many preventable diseases could return and result in increased illness, disability, and death.
Dr. Inkisaar Ali said that vaccines are available free of cost at the EPI centres and urged parents to get their children vaccinated at their nearest EPI Centre. ‘Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases thus one of the most cost-effective health investments,’ he added.
Dr. Khalid Shafi, Member PPA Central Executive Committee and Convener PPA Karachi chapter said that the EPI is a disease prevention activity aimed at reducing illness and mortality from childhood diseases that are preventable by immunization. He elaborated that in Pakistan there are nine diseases in the EPI program which include: Poliomyelitis, Measles, Pneumococcal disease, Diphtheria, etc. These 9 diseases are responsible for millions of disabilities and deaths around the world each year.
While regretting the current state of immunization coverage, Dr. Shafi added that in the past the country had a higher immunization ratio. While referring to the research carried out by Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, he mentioned that in 1991 the country had an immunization coverage of 86% but sadly the current figure stands at 53.8%. He stressed that parents as well as the government need to play an increasingly important role to get the immunization coverage back on track.
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