Experts for increasing scope, reach of EPI

islamabad – As World Immunisation Week (April 24th to 30th) starts today, health experts have urged increase in scope and reach of routine immunisation to vaccinate each and every child against 10 diseases.Despite Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) has been running for the past 32 years, the overall awareness among public is very low and 27 per cent of deaths in Pakistan of children aged less than 5 years are due to vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccination coverage in Pakistan is just around 60 percent and, unfortunately, parents in Pakistan still do not view immunisation as a right of their children.The World Immunisation Week stresses that parents need to be educated about importance and availability of vaccines at EPI centres to get their children vaccinated.Dr Musarrat Hussain, consultant paediatrician and assistant professor at Shifa International Hospital, said that immunisation is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and it is one of the most cost-effective health investments.“Vaccines protect children by preparing their bodies to fight many potentially deadly diseases. They are responsible to control many infectious diseases that were once common around the world, including smallpox, polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib),” added Dr Musarrat.He said vaccines are considered second only to clean drinking water in controlling infectious diseases. ‘Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions and prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year. Decision of including Rotavirus vaccine in EPI program is commendable. It should be on urgent basis and more vaccines should be included in national program,’ he added.To a question why there is a need for vaccination, Dr Samiya Naemullah, HOD and Professor of Paediatrics at Islamic International Medical College and Riffah International University said that every year, globally, Pneumonia kills an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five years, more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Rotavirus gastroenteritis is estimated to cause more than half a million child deaths. Two billion people are infected with Hepatitis B virus and about 780,000 people die. All of these can be prevented through vaccination and immunisation,’ added Khalid.Globally 17 percent of deaths in under-5 years age group are due to vaccine Preventable Diseases. ‘Without vaccines, epidemics of many preventable diseases could return, resulting in increased – and unnecessary – illness, disability, and death,’ he added.Talking about how vaccination change lives, Dr Mazhar Hussain Raja, consultant paediatrician at Shifa International Hospital said measles vaccination resulted in a 75 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide, while illnesses and complications caused by influenza can be reduced by up to 60percent, and deaths by 80 percent, in elderly patients.“Polio cases have been reduced by 99 per cent from over 300,000 per year in 1988 to less than 650 cases in 2011. Smallpox was eradicated globally in a time span of 10 years,” said Dr Mazhar.

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