KARACHI - Despite the fact that free vaccination for Pneumonia is available in Pakistan, the disease is killing as many as 92,000 under five years of age children annually, revealed by health experts here on Tuesday.

They were talking to the media in connection with World Pneumonia Day to be observed on November 12. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, pneumonia kills 92,000 infants in Pakistan annually.

Pakistan is amongst top five countries, from where 99% of childhood pneumonia cases are reported,” said Dr Jamal Raza, President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) Sindh and Head of National Institute of Child Health (NICH).

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

It is to be noted that vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in reducing infectious diseases,” he said.

“Children under five with severe cases of pneumonia may struggle to breathe, with their chests moving in or retracting during inhalation. Young infants may suffer convulsions, unconsciousness, hypothermia, lethargy and feeding problem,” said Dr Khalid Shafi, General Secretary PPA Sindh and HOD Paediatrics, DUHS.

“Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common causes of pneumonia among children include: Streptococcus pneumonia and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

 Dr Jalal Akber, Vice President PPA Sindh and Professor of Paediatrics at Baqai Medical University and Vice Chairman PPA Karachi 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 programme in October, 2012, and this achievement made Pakistan the first South Asian country to include PCV in its national immunisation programme,” he added.

While giving reference of a study, he said that most of the children in Sindh with Pneumonia were malnourished and it was very alarming.

PPA Karachi Chairman Dr Jameel Akhter said, “Proper nutrition, clean drinking water and vaccines are important to fight pneumonia. Vaccines against pneumococcal, Hib, pertussis, and measles can prevent a significant portion of pneumonia cases from ever occurring,” he informed.

He further said that preventing pneumonia averted treatment costs, and allows children to become healthy, productive adults. “Vaccines hold promise of saving millions of children from dying of pneumonia.

Parents participation in immunisation of their children and increase in vaccine coverage would also save 2.9 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness,” Dr Jameel concluded.