Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination, Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, has announced the introduction of a new vaccine to protect Pakistani children from pneumonia – a disease that takes the lives of approximately 1.3 million children globally before their fifth birthday.
With this launch, Pakistan is the first country in South Asia to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine. According to the invitations distributed by the Ministry, the Prime Minister was supposed to launch the vaccine but at the eleventh hour the minister was made the chief guest of the event when the PM did not arrive after a long wait by the audience.
Dan Rohrmann, UNICEF Pakistan Country Representative, speaking on the event said ‘we are proud to partner with the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to inoculate millions of children against a disease that continues to take too many lives’.
The latest UN estimates indicate that pneumonia accounts for 18 per cent of child mortality – the primary cause of death among young children globally. In Pakistan, more than 352,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday and almost one in five of these deaths are due to pneumonia.
While the new pneumococcal vaccines cannot prevent every case of pneumonia, they do prevent a significant proportion of cases and therefore have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives from preventable sickness and death. Helen Evans, Deputy CEO of the GAVI Alliance said “I am pleased that the GAVI’s strong financial commitment is being matched by the will of the Pakistan Government to tackle a disease that needlessly claims the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistani children every year.”
The introduction of the pneumococcal vaccineis an important milestone in the fight to reduce the burden caused by pneumonia in Pakistan. The partnership between the Government of Pakistan and the GAVI Alliance – which includes United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and civil society, among many other partners – to deliver this life-saving vaccine to Pakistan’s children, as well as a renewed commitment to strengthening the current routine immunization system, provides a solid foundation for a stronger, healthier nation. Dr. Guido Sabatinelli, WHO Representative in Pakistan speaking on the event hoped that procurement procedures can be streamlined and be made more efficient so that life-saving vaccines make their way to the communities that need it most.