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Pneumonia kills infants due to lack of vaccine


Nikita,CNN-IBN
Nov 15, 2011 at 09:19am IST

Mumbai: One child below the age of five dies in India every four minutes. Most of these deaths occur due to preventable illnesses like pneumonia.

The International Access Vaccine Centre blames India for not introducing the latest vaccines. But can that alone save nearly four lakh children's lives every year?

According to the latest report by the centre based at Johns Hopkins University, as many as 3.71 lakh Indian children die every year due to pneumonia.

It finds every fourth child, who dies of pneumonia world-wide, is an Indian. The figure is worse than sub Saharan Africa, Pakistan, and even Afghanistan.

Yet, India is among just four countries to not introduce the newest generation of pneumonia vaccines, which protect against the 23 most common strains of the disease.

Doctors say there are other focus areas.

"Vaccine up to certain extent can limit the morality and morbidity, but definitely control of environmental risk factor is more important. Basically it is the overall hygiene, the avoidance of over crowding and the environmental risk factors. Those are more important rather then giving the vaccine," said Dr Mukesh Agarwal, HOD Pediatric, KEM Hospital.

There are also concerns over cost, and access.

The International Access Vaccine Centre says the new vaccine would help save at least 4 million children across developing countries in the next decade.

However, the vaccine requires four booster shots. Altogether, the cost would be Rs 16000.

"It is rather unfair that only one percent of population can afford the expensive vaccines and have access to them and the people who need them most don't have access to them. So that's were the fight lies," said Dr Soonu Udani, Pediatrician, Hinduja Hospital.

"Just like they fought for AIDS medication to be made cheaper and now ART has been made really cheap for the patients, same things should be done for vaccines," said Dr Udani.

The report also highlights low rates of breast feeding in India as a key factor for child deaths.

According to the WHO, breast feeding provides vital immunity and Pneumonia wouldn't take such a terrible toll if 70-80 per cent of infants were breastfed, as opposed to 46 per cent of infants, which is the case in India.

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