KARACHI  - As world marks global immunisation week, Pakistan is battling with very low coverage of immunisation and vaccination, with Sindh standing at less than 30 percent coverage, revealed health experts at a press briefing here on Tuesday. 

Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), Sindh President Professor Jamal Raza said that without vaccines, epidemic of many preventable diseases could result in increased and unnecessary illness, disability, and death. He said vaccines were available free of cost at EPI centers, so that parents could get their children vaccinated against deadly diseases. 

PPA Sindh Secretary General Dr Khalid Shafi said that 27 percent deaths in children of under five years of age could be prevented through vaccines. “It is high time to increase the reach and scope of EPI,” he stressed. He said that the EPI programme was being run for the past 32 years, yet awareness in general public about the program was very low. 

“People need to be educated about the importance and availability of vaccines at EPI centers,” said Dr Khalid. 

PPA Karachi President Professor Jalal Akbar said immunization was a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases, and it was one of the most cost-effective health investments. “Vaccines protect children by preparing their bodies to fight many potentially deadly diseases. We are responsible to control many infectious diseases that were once common around the world, including smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib),” said Jalal. 

Dr Mushtaq Memon said, “Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions that prevents 2 to 3 million deaths every year.” 

To a question why there was a need for vaccination, Dr Mushtaq informed that Pneumonia killed an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five every year, globally; more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. “Rotavirus gastroenteritis is estimated to cause more than half a million child deaths,” he said, and added, “Two billion people are infected with Hep                     atitis B virus and about 780,000 people die.” All of these can be prevented through vaccination and immunisation,” added Dr Mushtaq. 

Child Survival Programme Sindh Director Dr MN Lal said, “Vaccination against Measles has resulted in a 75 percent drop in deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide, while illnesses and complications caused by influenza could be reduced by up to 60 percent, and deaths by 80 percent, in elderly patients.”  He said polio cases had reduced by 99 percent from over 300,000 in 1988 to less than 650 cases in 2011. “Smallpox was eradicated globally in a time span of 10 years,” he elaborated. It is worth mentioning here that EPI was launched in Pakistan in year 1978 and currently, it is providing vaccinations against nine diseases, including tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, hepatitis B,