ISLAMABAD-Above ninety thousand children die every year due to Pneumonia in Pakistan, despite the availability of free vaccination of the disease in the country, experts said on Saturday. According to the World Health Organization estimates, pneumonia accounts for 16% of the total child deaths making it the leading killer of children less than 5 years of age around the world. Globally, Pneumonia accounts for more than 920,000 deaths among children under- 5. An estimated 99 percent of children who die of pneumonia live in developing countries. “Despite the fact that free vaccination is available in Pakistan, Pneumonia a preventable disease, is killing  as many as 92,000 children annually under the age of 5”,it was revealed by leading paediatricians in a statement to mark the upcoming World Pneumonia Day on November 12.

Dr Tabish Hazir, Former Head of Paediatrics at PIMS said, “Pneumonia is a form acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. “Children under the age of 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 problems.” ‘Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common bacterial causes of pneumonia amongst children include: Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib),’ said Dr Tabish.

He said, “Preventing children from developing pneumonia in the first place is critical to reducing its death toll. Fortunately 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. “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,” said Dr Rai Muhammad Asghar, President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Centre and Dean of Paediatrics at Rawalpindi Medical University and Allied Hospital. He added that preventing pneumonia averts treatment costs; other loses due to illness, and allows children to become healthy, productive adults. Vaccines hold promise of saving millions of children from dying of pneumonia.  “Every stakeholder including media, doctors and advocacy groups will have to play their role to increase awareness and stress the need of vaccination to help prevent our future generation from this deadly disease,” he said.