Karachi- It is estimated that approximately 27 per cent deaths in Pakistan of children aged less than 5 years are due to vaccine Preventable Diseases, it is high time to increase the reach of and scope of EPI and world immunization week is the best time to do that; this was stated by health experts in a press briefing organized to highlight the importance of world immunization week.
The experts further stated that despite the EPI program running since the past 32 years, total coverage is just 54 per cent as awareness among parents is very low. The people need to be educated about importance and availability of vaccines at EPI centers to get their children vaccinated.
They informed that EPI was launched in Pakistan in 1978 and currently providing vaccinations against 9 diseases including: tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, hepatitis B, Haemophilusinfluenzae type B (Hib) & Pneumococcal disease.
General Secretary Pakistan Pediatric Association Central, Prof Dr Ayesha Mehnaz, said that immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and it is one of the most cost-effective health investments.
She said vaccines protect children by preparing their bodies to fight many potentially deadly diseases. They are responsible to control many infectious diseases that were once common around the world, including smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilusinfluenzae type b (Hib), she added.
She said vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in controlling infectious diseases. She said immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions and prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year.
Convener Pakistan Pediatric Association Sindh Karachi Chapter Dr Khalid Shafi, said that every year, globally, Pneumonia kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years, more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Rotavirus gastroenteritis is estimated to cause more than half a million child deaths. Two billion people are infected with Hepatitis B virus and about 780,000 people die, all of these can be prevented through vaccination and immunization,’ added Khalid.
Globally 17 per cent of deaths in under-5 years age group are due to vaccine Preventable Diseases. ‘Without vaccines, epidemics of many preventable diseases could return, resulting in increased and unnecessary illness, disability, and death, he added.
Dr Saleem Paryani said measles vaccination resulted in a 75 per cent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide, while illnesses and complications caused by influenza can be reduced by up to 60 per cent, and deaths by 80 per cent, in elderly patients.
He said polio cases have been reduced by 99 per cent from over 300,000 per year in 1988 to less than 650 cases in 2011. Smallpox was eradicated globally in a time span of 10 years.