MEDICAL experts have observed that pneumonia is the largest cause of deaths among children in the country as a child succumbs to this disease every 20 minutes while carelessness or delay in early control/treatment of the disease may result in lifelong disability, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, etc.
“As many as 5 million children die of pneumonia in the world every year while out of them, at least 100,000 children die in Pakistan alone,” the experts said during a seminar on “Pneumonia - Prevention, Control and Treatment” organized by the Mir Khalilur Rahman Memorial Society (Jang Group of Newspapers) at a local hotel here on Tuesday.
They stressed the public to get their children vaccinated against pneumonia, especially after the government had included pneumococcal vaccine in the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI). Like concerted efforts in combat against dengue, they said, there was a need to fight against pneumonia.
Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique has said the Punjab government, in collaboration with international institutions (UNICEF), (GAVI), World Health Organization (WHO) and others, had included Pneumococcal Vaccine in routine immunization under the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) to save children lives. He said Pakistan was the first country in South Asia to have launched the vaccine. Three doses of vaccine would be injected among the children up to the age of 1 year free of cost while the market price of this vaccine was more than Rs4,000, he said.
Salman Rafique said the Punjab government had resolved the issue of service structure of doctors and the issue of paramedics would also be resolve by December.
Prof Dr Ghaffar from the Aga Khan University said pneumonia was a big issue in developing countries which was reflected through largest ratio of children dying before reaching the age of five years. He emphasized upon the government to involve the Lady Health Visitors (LHVs) in EPI program. He said that an 11-day training course could enable paramedics and LHVs for effectively combating pneumonia among children.
Prof Dr Ashraf Sultan from the King Edward Medical University said that pneumonia attacked silently, saying that while carelessness in early treatment of pneumonia could condemn 30 to 40 percent of surviving children with lifelong disabilities and might result in death among majority of children.
Prof Dr Tahir Masood the symptoms of pneumonia included heavy breathing, body ache, etc. He said that the delay in the treatment of pneumonia could cause severe complications.
Prof Tariq Bhutta, a renowned paediatrician, said that the world was conducting vaccination against 22 diseases, while in Pakistan, the vaccination was being done against nine diseases only. As many as 29,000 children were becoming victim of pneumonia every year in Pakistan, he said, adding that the vaccination programme had been introduced to save their precious lives. He said that there was a need to administer three injections in three months to the children under two years to prevent pneumonia, adding that vaccination against the disease could be done among children for up to nine years of age.
Director General Health Punjab Nisar Ahmed Cheema hoped that through the preventive vaccination programme, lives of children would be saved. He said more than 11,000 health workers had been imparted vaccination training while facilities had been increased at the district level.