Pneumonia, the leading cause of death among children under five years of age in India, is preventable through vaccination, proper nutrition and hygiene, experts have suggested.
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames air sacs in one or both lungs and remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing 2,500 children a day, according to the latest data from the UNICEF.
Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children under five years of age globally and in India.
India accounts for nearly 20 per cent of global pneumonia deaths in this age group. In 2010, pneumococcal pneumonia accounted for approximately 16 per cent of all severe pneumonia cases and 30 per cent of pneumonia related deaths in children under- five years of age in India, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in a report earlier this year, while announcing it will include the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in its Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
Targetted and effective work as well as the scaling up of life-saving interventions such as the PCV will help India achieve one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that is to reduce under-5 mortality, experts from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement on Friday.
“Now that India joins a list of more than 140 other countries in making the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine available in our UIP, we have great hope that the vaccine will help us bring down the under-5 mortality rate,” said Anupam Sachdeva, National President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics.
“We also believe that this move will help reduce pneumonia-related hospitalisation and the economic burden this places on families and the country’s health system,” Sachdeva added.
Under the UIP, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine has been introduced to cover approximately 21 lakh children in the first year, in select states, with GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) support.
Further, they also suggested other measures such as adequate nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years with complementary feeding, prevention of indoor pollution from smoking or the use of dung/wood in stoves as well as maintaining good hygiene such as regular washing of hands to help prevent pneumonia.