Nearly 100,000 children under the age of five die every year due to preventable diseases like pneumonia, tetanus and measles in Pakistan. This makes up to a whopping 20 percent of the total 435,000 deaths of children in Pakistan. These diseases can easily be ward off with the timely vaccination of children. These views were expressed by experts of Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA – Centre) including, Prof. M. Iqbal Memon, President, Prof. Syed Jamal Raza, General Secretary and Prof. Jalaluddin Akbar, Treasurer at a press briefing organized to mark World Immunization Day at Press Club, Karachi.
Prof. Iqbal Memon sharing his views on the occasion said that government-run health departments and non-government associations should make the most of the World Immunisation Week to highlight the importance of vaccination to avert preventable diseases, he said. More and more parents should be made aware of the dangers of diseases and benefits of immunisation.
The world is bent upon eradicating epidemics and infectious diseases among children through massive spending and exclusive healthcare facilities. Here in Pakistan, a large section of population is unaware and careless about protecting the new generation through proper vaccination despite the availability of free-of-charge facilities.
The World Health Organisation works for the health of nations, concentrating on children while the Unicef works exclusively for children with paediatric associations as their technical advisers and advocates, he observed.
The South-East Asian region completed the second year of not reporting any wild poliovirus and is on track to be certified polio-free in February 2014. In 2012, India, Nepal and Myanmar conducted successful measles vaccination campaigns immunising over 46 million children.
About the resistance to immunisation in certain sections of the population, he said that that it is misinformation and lack of awareness. The only reason is ignorance and lack of awareness on the part of the masses at a time when most countries in the world have successfully eradicated these diseases through proper immunisation programmes,” he explained.
The government along with the private sector had set around 7,000 centres countrywide to prevent children from infectious diseases while providing nine doses free of charge in different cities and towns. “Yet, dozens of children die every year from different diseases which shows people are not paying attention to vaccinate their children, which is sad indeed,” he added.
Prof Jamal Raza, PPA General Secretary said proper vaccination campaigns had eliminated infectious diseases in many countries of the world but Pakistan was considered a dangerous country, where these diseases were still widespread. Timely vaccination has the potential to protect millions of lives from deaths and disabilities.
He pointed out polio, pneumonia, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, tuberculosis and some diseases preventable though Hib conjugate vaccines as avoidable. Parents can save their children from all such deadly diseases easily through government-run immunization programmes.
He said international donor agencies such as World Health Organization, UNICEF, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and World Bank have joined hands with the Pakistani government to protect children by funding the vaccine cost.
Prof Jalal Akbar said it was unfortunate that the awareness of freely available vaccines at vaccination centres was still low despite the Extended Programme on Immunization being run for the past 40 years. This calls for a need that the government and NGOs should raise awareness among the masses on long-term basis in order to minimize deaths and harmful impacts on the lives of infants.
Dr Jameel Akhtar said public camps should be set up regularly in urban and rural areas of the country to educate the masses on the benefits of vaccinations of their children.
Dr Sami Ahmed said that the role of the programme, otherwise, will be useless when epidemics and infectious diseases cannot be controlled,” said