KARACHI: “Long before the COVID-19 emerged as a global pandemic, Pakistan has been struggling on several other medical fronts such as ensuring optimum rates of immunization against preventable diseases amongst children and the challenge is only becoming more and more demanding in the present times.”
Paediatricians reiterated this in the wake of the ongoing World Immunization Week. Immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases is one of the most cost-effective and beneficial public health measures that can be undertaken in order to prevent several communicable viral and bacterial infections including diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhea, rubella, and tetanus.
According to a rough estimate, around 2-3 million lives are saved every year due to the process of immunization, thus making its administration essential for the future of public health.
Speaking about the importance of immunization in children, former President Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) and President-Elect Asia Pacific Paediatric Association, Dr Iqbal Memon, said, “Vaccines have played a significant role in eliminating and preventing several serious infectious diseases in children, thereby reducing morbidity and mortality rate to a considerable extent; however, its utilization rate still needs to be increased for an estimated 19.5 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines.”
“It is important to get your children vaccinated because when you vaccinate a child, you are not only protecting him/her against the infectious disease, but you are also protecting his/her family and friends, thus helping protect the entire community,” he further opined.
Adding to it, Dr Khalid Shafi, General Secretary, PPA, highlighted the efforts of the Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA), which has made concerted efforts in providing vaccination to children against deadly diseases through Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).
“The Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was introduced in 1978 to vaccinate children aged 0-11 months against ten target diseases under which, BCG and polio vaccine is to be given at birth, Rotavirus vaccine at 6 and 10 weeks, pentavalent and pneumococcal vaccine at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age, and two doses of Measles at nine months and 15 months of age,” he said while explaining the immunization schedule.
Dr Jamal Raza, Director, National Institute of Child Health, remarked on the necessity of the continuation of routine immunization amidst these crucial times. “Routine immunization should continue even during the COVID-19 pandemic, and children should be vaccinated so as to avoid the risk of other deadly disease outbreaks,” he said.
“However, proper precautionary measures should be followed by healthcare workers or paediatricians while administering the vaccine to the child, assuring parents that it is safe to continue the routine immunization process during this pandemic,” added Dr Jalal Akbar, President-Elect, PPA Sindh.
He also stressed the role of paediatricians to educate the masses about the importance of vaccination to prevent children from deadly diseases.