As world marks Global Pneumonia Day, Pakistan is among top 5 countries which account for 99 percent of childhood Pneumonia cases and around 92,000 children under 5-years of age die of Pneumonia annually in Pakistan, revealed a statement issued by leadiing pediatricians on Saturday. This is very unfortunate as free vaccine against Pneumonia is available under Extended Program for Immunization (EPI) and loss of precious lives can be prevented, they added.
According to the World Health Organization estimates, Pneumonia accounts for 16 percent of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children less than 5 years of age globally. Globally, Pneumonia accounts for more than 920,000 deaths among children under-5, said Professor Dr Rai Muhammad Asghar, President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) and Dean of Pediatrics at Rawalpindi Medical University and Allied Hospital.
Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli (small sacs in lungs which fill with air when a healthy person breathes) are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake. It is to be noted that vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in reducing infectious diseases he added.
“Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation (known as ‘lower chest wall in drawing’). Young infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problems,” said Professor Rai.
Professor Dr Shahzad Munir, president PPA Federal said Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common causes of pneumonia amongst children include: Streptococcus Pneumonia and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
He added that 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 the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunization program he added.
Professor Dr Tabish Hazir a seasoned pediatrician said proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines are 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 helps in averting treatment costs and other loses due to illness, and it allows children to become healthy and 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.
Recorder Report. Global Pneumonia Day: Pneumonia claims 92,000 children’s lives annually in Pakistan: Dr Rai. Business Recorder, November 12, 2017.