Central govt launches new vaccine for pneumonia

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) has reached approximately 21 lakh children in Himachal Pradesh, parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This health scheme for kids will be extended to Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan by next year and will be expanded across the country in phases

Central govt launches new vaccine for pneumonia
Union Minister for Health JP Nadda launches the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) for pneumonia on Saturday (May 13) in Himachal Pradesh for weaker sections of the society

In order to boost to the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) across the country, the Union government introduced the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) its ambitious programme for the economically-weaker sections of the society.

Union Minister for Health JP Nadda launched the PCV in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday.

The PCV that has been rolled out reached approximately 21 lakh children in Himachal Pradesh, parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This health scheme for children will be extended to Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan by next year and will be expanded all across the country in phases.

At the launch, Nadda said, “We salute the spirit of our health workers who ensure with all their efforts that every child is immunized across India, PCV will definitely help the weaker sections of the society.”

Pneumococcus leads to serious diseases like sepsis, meningitis and most importantly, pneumonia, which is the number one killer of children under five years of age and elderly above 50-60 years of age. According to UNICEF, pneumonia remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing 2,500 children per day. Pneumonia accounted for 15% of all under-five deaths and killed 9,20,000 children in 2015. Most of its victims were less than age 2.

In India close to 3 lakhs children died due to Pneumonia in 2015. Of the two, 18-19% deaths are due to pneumonia, while 25% of these are caused by Hib Pneumonia

Maximum number of pneumonia deaths in India are witnessed in UP, followed by Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Under Mission Indradhanush, 2.6 crore children have been immunized, which has resulted in a 6.7% annual expansion in the immunization cover.

PCV has been there in the private sector and globally, it is considered as one of the most expensive vaccines.

The weaker sections of the society had no access to this vaccine for a very long period of time. This vaccine will protect children from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, which includes ear infections, meningitis and blood infections.

Hailing the Union government’s move for taking a significant step towards health care, Dr Mukesh Sanklecha, Paediatrician at Bombay Hospital, said, “This vaccine is expensive and much-needed in children from lower and lower middle class. It protects infants from life-threatening diseases. Government’s decision to include PCV in its immunization programme will go a long way in bringing down mortality and morbidity rate in children.”

Thus, PCV is strongly recommended for all children up to 5 years of age by World Health Organisation (WHO). It is also recommended for high-risk individuals and adults above 50 years.

“PCV13 is in use in private market India, for children now more than 10 years. However it’s an expensive vaccine affordable only by few and was out of the reach of millions who nonetheless need it. Now with inclusion of PCV13 in the National Immunization Program (NIP), it will be available to each and every child who needs it including the poor and the needy,” said Dr Nitin Shah, Paediatrician at PD Hinduja Hospital.

Dr Shah added that inclusion of PCV13 in NIP will help India bring down its under-five mortality rates and has the potential to save almost 100,000 under five deaths every year. Besides, it will also ease the sufferings of millions of children.