New Delhi: India contributes to more than 50 per cent of the world's pneumonia deaths. Pneumonia is fast emerging as the next big challenge after polio for the country. During the World Immunisation Week, the question is whether pneumonia vaccines should be introduced in India's national immunisation programme.
Pneumonia is a big challenge as 3,70,000 Indian children die due to the disease annually and 60,00,000 children are affected by it every year, leading to debilitating and life long diseases, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
The WHO says that India accounts for 50 per cent of the world's total pneumonia deaths. so is Pnenomia the next big vaccination that India should embark on.
Chairman of ICMR's Pneumonia Task Force Professor NK Ganguly said, "The good thing about vaccines is that you can carry them to 80 to 90 per cent of the children because we have an immunization system and these vaccines prevent the disease rather than curing it. So why not eliminate it when we can?"
There are currently two pneumonia vaccines in the market - for pneumococcal pneumonia and for Hib influenza B. The government has introduced the Hib vaccine in Kerala and Tamil Nadu as part of a combination vaccine that also fights DPT and Hepatitis-B. Six other states are waiting for an approval. The health activists have pointed out the risks.
Jacob Puliyel, Member, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, said, "The Kerala government has written to the high court that four deaths have been reported after the Hib vaccination."
Dr MK Bhan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, said, "Sometimes when you immunise lakhs of children, you have to remember 10 to 15 per cent of India's children are sick on any given day. So to show that the problem that you have has been caused by the vaccine requires an objective evaluation."
According to the WHO, pneumonia claims the lives of an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five years globally every year, making it a bigger killer than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. As India rejoices in the success of its polio eradication programme, pneumonia may be the next big challenge it needs to face.