About 75 pediatricians from across the state brainstormed today to discuss the preventive measures to be taken to fight pneumonia which according to the UNICEF data claims more lives in children below five years of age than any other illness.
During the Pneumococcal Disease Conference held here today,the pediatricians and members of the Asian Strategic Alliance for Pneumococcal (ASAP) disease prevention said in order to combat invasive pneumococcal disease,the pneomococcal conjugate vaccince (PCV) has shown positive results in the West and South Africa.
Though no clinical trial has been conducted in India,we are soon going to undertake the probe trials in the four districts in the country. However,the success and efficacy of the vaccine has already been established in the US since 2000 where about 36 per cent reduction was seen in pneumonia cases. Besides,in South Africa too,particularly in Zambia,the vaccine has shown positive results, said Shyam Kukreja,convener,ASAP.
Every year 20 per cent of the children in the world who die even before they attain five years of age are the victims of pneumonia which can result from various reasons. In India,about four lakh children below five die of the disease, he added.
Dr AJ Chitkara,member of ASAP,said that of these four lakh children,two lakh are the cases of pneumococcal disease. The participants at the conference were on the view that PCV should be introduced in the country so that the disease and the deaths caused by it could be prevented. There are 90 identified strains of pneumonia and the vaccine will help combat the seven more serious strains, said JS Chugh,from the Pahwa Hospital.
Both ASAP India and and IAP have recommended the use of PCV on one to one basis as per the IAP immunisation schedule, said Dr Kukreja. The participants also agreed to represent to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to include PCV in the National Immunisation Programme.
The vaccine is very expensive at present and is available at a price of about Rs 3,000 to 4,000. But we along with the government of India are trying to make the vaccine available at more affordable prices (at Rs 40) and introduce it by 2011, said Rohit Aggarwal,secretary,IAP and co-convener of ASAP.
The National Immunisation Programme covers six main diseases at present. However,the routine immunisation coverage on the average is about 55 per cent in the country. It is therefore necessary to sensitize doctors,general population and the government about the significance of vaccinations available to prevent all these diseases, said Dr Chitkara.
Dr Chitkara added that pneumonia is a forgotten killer of children which still kills more children than malaria,measles or AIDS. Over the years,an increasing incidence of drug resistant pmeumonococcus has been noticed which is a serious cause for concern, said Dr Daljit Singh,principal of the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital,who was present at the conference.
The participants stated that World Health Organisation has also identified the inclusion of PCV in the national immunisation programmes as a priority in countries where the mortality rate in the children below five years of age is more than 50 per 1,000 live births. About 27 lakh children die in India every year before they turn five.