Top Indian paediatric body to lobby for pneumonia vaccine

April 10th, 2008 - 1:25 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss
By Prashant K. Nanda
Udaipur (Rajasthan), April 10 (IANS) With pneumonia killing nearly 400,000 children in the country annually, the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) will lobby with the health ministry to introduce a new vaccine to curb the infectious disease. “Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of under five mortalities in India. The disease can be controlled and nearly 100,000 lives saved per year through a new medicine named PCV7,” said IAP president R.K. Agarwal.

“We are going to lobby with the ministry to introduce the medicine in the national immunisation programme,” Agarwal told IANS.

He said the body, which has over 16,000 members, would press the matter with Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

Over 150 leading paediatricians from across India were here recently to deliberate on pneumonia and other infectious diseases in the country.

Pneumonia - a preventable disease - is an inflammatory infection in the lungs. The bacteria pneumococcus, which contributes over 50 percent of the cases, can also cause other related infections such as blood infection, meningitis and ear infection.

The disease can result from a variety of causes, including infection due to viruses, fungi or parasites. It can also be caused by chemical or physical injury to the lungs.

People with pneumonia often have cough, producing greenish or yellow sputum, and a high fever that may be accompanied by shaking chills. Chest pain during deep breaths accompanies the disease.

“This group of diseases is collectively called pneumococcal diseases that can also lead to brain damage, paralysis, learning disability and speech problems,” said Rohit Agrawal, secretary general of IAP.

“The new medicine is only a few months old and has a high chance of reducing pneumonia mortality,” he claimed.

Nitin Shah, member of the Asian Strategic Partnership for Pneumococcal Disease Prevention (ASAP) and member of the IAP, said the new medicine is expensive but can save a lot of lives.

The cost of the new medicine is nearly Rs.3,500.

“We will press the ministry to strike a deal with the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI) so that the new medicine can be obtained for a much lesser price,” Shah said.

He said GAVI has been helping over 70 countries in availing vaccines in a much cheaper price.

GAVI is an alliance between different stakeholders from both the private and public sectors and commits itself to the mission of saving children’s lives through the worldwide expansion of childhood vaccination programmes.

Experts said besides deaths, over 25 percent of people affected by the diseases develop disability leading to loss of huge working hours.

“Loss of active work days is bad for economy. Both doctors and policy makers must strive to save children’s lives as they are the future of India’s growing economy,” said Upendra Kinjawadekar, another senior paediatrician.

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