Islamabad - Pakistan is set to introduce Rotavirus Vaccine in its routine immunisation programme to control the deaths of infants occurring from diarrhoea.

Currently, the children aged from 0 to 11 months and pregnant women are immunised against 9 vaccine preventable diseases under the National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and diarrhoea would be the 10th disease to be included in the programme.

The infants at the age of 10th and 14th weeks would be vaccinated against the disease. The vaccination would be started under the programme from January 2017, however, Punjab is likely to start the vaccination a bit earlier, informed Dr Syed Saqlain Ahmed Gilani, National Programme Manager of EPI.

In a provincial consultative meeting held yesterday a comprehensive briefing on the Rotavirus vaccine application was given by the National Programme Manager of EPI to provincial/ areas EPI managers and development partners.

During the presentation, Dr Syed Saqlain Ahmed Gilani highlighted that globally 700,000 children under five die of diarrhoea while Rotavirus kills more than 197,000 (28 per cent) children. In Pakistan Rotavirus is responsible for sever gastrointestinal infections in every 1 out of 3 children. Although, there is no comprehensive data available related to deaths caused from diarrhoea but according to rough estimates about 3700 children die of diarrhoea only in Punjab, he said.

Dr Saqlain Gilani while presenting the main features of the Rotavirus Vaccine application shared that advisory group of EPI had recommended the introduction of Rotavirus Vaccine in 2011. About 90 per cent support for the programme would come from GAVI- the vaccine alliance- and for this the Government of Pakistan has decided to submit an application for Rotavirus Vaccine introduction to GAVI in May 2016, stated Dr Saqlain Ahmed Gilani during his presentation.

Discussing the requirements of the Rotavirus Vaccine application, he expressed, a storage capacity analysis up to district level needed while requirement of an additional cold chain capacity from province to district level is also required. Rotavirus disease burden and surveillance mechanism is also a need for the preparation. Development of monitoring and evaluation plan, health system strengthening system and GAVI performance framework finalisation is also underway, he said.

Maintaining a balance of gender and equity and increased immunisation coverage is also a requirement for the rotavirus vaccine application. He said that a working group has been constituted to develop a comprehensive rotavirus vaccine application.