KARACHI-The Government of Pakistan has become the first country to approve nationwide rollout of a Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV), following new evidence of spread of an unusual typhoid strain, extensively resistant to antibiotics.
This outbreak started in Hyderabad, Sindh Province, affected over 1,000 children. Research from Aga Khan University (AKU) showed that the disease has spread to other cities, as well as parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Researchers from AKU, who were involved in an emergency vaccination campaign in Hyderabad in January 2018, also informed the government that the TCV was safe with no adverse effects being noted in 99.7% of children who received doses.
“Immunization is the only feasible option we have left against this Superbug,” stated Farah Qamar, Associate Professor Pediatrics, AKU.
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem and the shortage of medicines to treat the disease led to the World Health Organization prequalifying the Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine in January 2018, enabling its supply to countries such as Pakistan.
GAVI, a global, public-private partnership committed to increasing access to vaccines, pledged US$ 85 million as funding, to enable the global launch of this vaccine. “The recent GAVI commitment to support the introduction of typhoid conjugate vaccines is a great opportunity for Pakistan,” said Dr. Syed Saqlain Ahmad Gilani, National Program Manager, Federal Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI). “We have previously introduced vaccines against pneumonia, diarrhea and the injectable polio vaccine. The launch of the typhoid vaccine will be another step towards improving the immunity of our children against this disease.”
Prof. Rumina Hasan, Pathologist and Microbiologist, AKU said that, “This vaccine will not only save lives in Pakistan but, will also be an effective weapon in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance.”
Dr. Anita Zaidi, Director of Vaccine Development, Surveillance, and Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and an AKU alumni, was also involved in global efforts to generate evidence of the efficacy for this vaccine against typhoid. “For too long, typhoid, which invariably affects the world’s poorest people, has been neglected in efforts to improve global health. With this new vaccine – the first-ever to be useful for preventing typhoid in young children – countries will finally be able to protect millions of children who are most vulnerable to this deadly disease.”
Research and advocacy efforts were backed by a team at AKU, including Prof. Rumina Hasan, Prof. Zahra Hasan and Dr. Sadia Shakoor from the department of Pathology and Microbiology, Dr. Farah Qamar, Dr. Tahir Yousafzai and Dr. Momin Kazi from the department of Pediatrics and Child Health.
The control and prevention of water-borne diseases such as typhoid is a global health priority, with targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, calling for the eradication of such diseases by year 2030.