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UN and partners hail launch of life-saving pneumonia vaccine in Pakistan

Credit: GAVI Alliance
GAVI Alliance
Credit: GAVI Alliance

UN and partners hail launch of life-saving pneumonia vaccine in Pakistan

The United Nations and its partners announced today that Pakistan has become the first country in South Asia to introduce a new vaccine that protects children from pneumonia, the leading killer of children worldwide.

The UN estimates that pneumonia accounted for 18 per cent of child mortality, and that four countries, including Pakistan, accounted for more than half the cases across the globe.

“As the first country in South Asia to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine, Pakistan’s commitment to immunizing all children against vaccine preventable diseases is to be applauded,” said Dan Rohrmann, Pakistan Country Representative for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“We are proud to partner with the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to inoculate millions of children against a disease that continues to take too many lives,” he stated.

In 2011, more than 352,000 children in Pakistan died before reaching their fifth birthday and almost one in five of these deaths were due to pneumonia, according to a joint press release issued by UN agencies and the Pakistani Government.

While the new pneumococcal vaccines cannot prevent every case of pneumonia, they do prevent a significant proportion of cases and therefore have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives from preventable sickness and death, they added.

The pneumococcal vaccine is available in Pakistan thanks to the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) of the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership that includes UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and civil society, among others.

Since its establishment in 2000, the GAVI Alliance has financed the immunization of more than 325 million children and prevented more than five million premature deaths. The AMC provides incentives for manufacturers to produce large quantities of pneumococcal vaccine that can then reach developing countries much earlier than they could have previously.

“Today’s historic introduction of pneumococcal vaccine underlines our commitment to the children of Pakistan,” said Helen Evans, deputy CEO of the GAVI Alliance. “Through our partners on the ground and working with the Government of Pakistan, we aim to reach millions of children with this life-saving pneumococcal vaccine.

The WHO Representative in Pakistan, Guido Sabatinelli, called the launch an “important milestone” in the fight to reduce infant and child mortality in the country. “We look forward to working in partnership with the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance to deliver this life-saving vaccine to Pakistan’s children,” he stated.

“We also hope that procurement procedures can be streamlined and be made more efficient so that life-saving vaccines make their way to the communities that need it most.”