15 Dec PAKISTAN: Policymakers held accountable to improve immunization coverage
Article posted on December 15, 2016.
Partners discuss strategies for improving immunization coverage across Pakistan’s provinces to reach all children
This story is part of the 2016 round-up of World Pneumonia Day. Events and campaigns were held in many countries around the world to remind policymakers that pneumonia is still a silent killer taking the lives of many young children. Child health advocates and members of the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia organized various advocacy strategies to shine light on the need to continue the fight to bring an end to this disease.
Immunization was the focus in Islamabad during the Awareness Seminar that marked World Pneumonia Day early on November 11, 2016. The event brought together members of government, civil society organizations, female health workers, and United Nations to discuss strategies for improving immunization coverage in Pakistan, with the goal of reducing the rate of childhood pneumonia. This advocacy workshop was organized by the Federal Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) with support from the International Vaccine Access Center.
One of the major reasons for high prevalence of pneumonia is limited routine immunization coverage, explained Dr. Syed Saqlain Ahmed Gilani, National Programme Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (NPM-EPI). Around 54% children are covered nationally, according to Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey conducted in the country, which is conducted every three to four years (PDHS 2012/2013) .
But the number of children immunized varies from province to province. As a result, pneumococcal vaccine faces challenges reaching children across the whole country, so its population-level effects are not yet significant.
“Pneumonia is still one of the major killers of children under 5 in Pakistan. If administered, pneumococcal vaccine (PCV 10) has the potential to save thousands of lives, drastically reducing Pakistan’s under-5 mortality rate due to pneumonia and pneumococcal meningitis.
The vaccine, PCV 10, introduced in the Government’s Immunization Programme since 2012 is available free of cost, but the coverage rates are still low,” said Dr. Gilani.
Deputy Director of the Federal EPI in Islamadad, Dr. Soofia Yunus, further added that there is much work to accomplish. Besides completing the routine immunization schedule, the interventions for pneumonia and diarrhea include exclusive breastfeeding, access to care and use of antibiotics, oral rehydration solution, and zinc to treat the illnesses.
These measures are known to prevent childhood deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhea and could help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development target goal in reducing under-5 mortality.
The NPM-EPI Dr. Gilani apprised that the government is fully committed to serve the children of Pakistan by strengthening equitable coverage of routine immunization.
- Access to immunisation is the right of every child and duty of the state – The News on Sunday
- ‘Basic health units unable to deal with pneumonia cases’ – Dawn
- Pakistan makes no gains in reducing pneumonia, diarrhoea mortality – The News International