LAHORE - Leading pediatricians have stressed the need for vaccination to fight pneumonia, the most deadly disease among children under five.

They stressed the need of raising public awareness for improving vaccination coverage that would help saving precious lives.

The World Pneumonia Day to be observed on Monday (tomorrow) globally is the best event to raise awareness about measures to avoid deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases like pneumonia.

They revealed that as many as 92,000 children under five die of pneumonia annually in Pakistan.

‘According to the World Health Organization estimates, pneumonia accounts for 16 per cent of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children less than 5 years of age globally. ‘Globally, pneumonia accounts for more than 920,000 deaths among children under- 5 and Pakistan is among top 5 countries which account for 99 per cent of childhood pneumonia cases,’ said Dr Tahir Masood, former President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Center and seasoned pediatrician.

‘Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. When an individual has pneumonia, the alveoli (small sacs in lungs which fill with air when a healthy person breathes) are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake’.

He said that vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in reducing infectious diseases. ‘It is very unfortunate that a preventable and treatable illness is claiming so many precious lives,’ he added.

‘Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation (known as ‘lower chest wall in drawing’). Young infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem,’ he added. Professor of pediatrics, Dr Sajid Maqbool said, ‘Prevention is the best strategy to reduce sickness and death from pneumonia.’

‘We were very fortunate that Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (pneumonia vaccine) was introduced in Pakistan’s EPI program in October 2012, and this achievement made Pakistan to become the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunization program,’ he added. He said that proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines are important to fight pneumonia. Vaccines against pneumococcus, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring.

‘We have to increase awareness among parents to fight this deadly disease. Every stakeholder including doctors, media and advocacy bodies will have to play their strong role to increase awareness and protect our future generation,’ he concluded.