Islamabad  -  Pakistan has the lowest coverage rate of immunization in children despite having free availability of vaccination which can prevent a large number of children from deaths, speakers said on Saturday.

“Vaccination and immunization can prevent more than 2 million deaths of children under 5 years of age in Pakistan,” said Prof Dr Rai Muhammad Asghar, President Pakistan Pediatric Association Pakistan (PPA) in a press briefing to mark upcoming World Immunization Week.

‘‘Parents should not compromise on immunization of their children as it saves them from illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases,” he appealed.

He said that life-threatening infectious diseases can be treated and controlled through immunization which also reduces the burden of disease. Vaccines also play a major role in eliminating and preventing diseases including diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella and tetanus.

Every year due to vaccines, approximately 3,000,000 deaths are prevented. Immunization is estimated to save 2-3 million lives every year.

An estimated 19.5 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines. If the optimum rates of immunization or “herd immunity” are not maintained, the diseases prevented by vaccination will return, he added.

Dr Rai while talking about facts of the deadliest preventable diseases in Pakistan said “In Pakistan, Rotavirus leads to 1 out of 3 infant hospitalizations and almost every child gets infected with Rotavirus by their 5th birthday”.

Moreover, Pneumococcal meningitis is the most common form of meningitis and the most serious form of bacterial meningitis. Very young children – as young as a few months old and up to the age of 2, are at the highest risk of pneumococcal meningitis, said Dr Rai. 

Similarly, Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause irreversible paralysis. Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus, which usually results in a high fever and rash, and can lead to blindness, encephalitis or death. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver, he added.

He also stressed on the need for vaccination said that “Vaccination can reduce the usage of some antibiotics. So, they can tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance. Vaccines activate antibodies that fight off the disease at hand, without actually giving you the disease. They trick us into fighting a disease we don’t have, so that our body is prepared to fight it off if we are exposed it in the future.”

He added that every year, vaccines prevent 6 million deaths worldwide. Vaccines are the most affordable solution when it comes to preventing certain health hazards.

They can prevent even death that is caused by diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, diarrhea and pneumonia. Moreover, if people are not vaccinated, diseases that have become uncommon such as pertussis (whooping cough), polio and measles, will quickly re-appear.

It is pertinent to note that in Pakistan Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was established in 1978, EPI currently aims to vaccinate approximately 6 million children aged 0-11 months against 10 target diseases: Childhood Tuberculosis, Polio, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Diarrhea,Hepatitis B, aemophilus Influenza Type b (HIB), Pneumonia, Measles and Tetanus.