Seth Berkley on Immunization in Pakistan

Seth Berkley_GAVIEvery child, no matter where he or she is born, should have the opportunity and the right to a healthy life, and vaccines are one of the best ways to provide that. Not only do they save lives and prevent disease, enabling children to grow up and lead productive lives, but vaccines are also very cost-effective: healthy children do not require medical treatment or care that costs money, they also do not require care that can prevent their parents from working, so their families are better off and can contribute more to the economy.

We, at GAVI, welcome the Pakistani government’s efforts to get new and underused vaccines to its children. Its introduction of pneumococcal vaccines in October 2012 made it the first Asian GAVI-eligible country to take this step. This will help protect Pakistan’s children from the leading cause of pneumonia, which is responsible for one-fifth of the 350,000 under-five child deaths that occur every year in the country.

The first Province  to launch pneumococcal vaccine were Punjab in October, while Azad Jammu and Kashmir, launched in January 2013, with training and preparations on-going to ensure safe and effective provincial-level introduction across Pakistan. We hope that these provinces will soon be followed by Sindh in March, Khyber Pakhtun Khwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in April, and finally Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan in May.

Nevertheless significant challenges remain, particularly in the case of polio. For although we’ve gone from around 350,000 cases per year world-wide to just 217 last year, Pakistan remains one of only three countries in the world with endemic polio. Fifty-eight of last year’s cases – more than a quarter of the world’s total – were in Pakistan.  Efforts to stop polio have been scaling up for some years now, and these efforts are critical in protecting children in Pakistan, as well children worldwide.

But part of the challenge in eliminating polio from Pakistan has been the limited coverage of routine infant immunisations. Children in Pakistan are supposed to receive vaccines against at least eight diseases before their first birthday, not counting pneumococcal vaccine: tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles and polio. Normally this would include 4 doses of oral polio vaccine. But Pakistan has been struggling to immunize every child. Over the past decade only about 70-80% of infants have been immunized each year with all the recommended polio doses. This means that one-in-five children are regularly being missed and therefore not benefiting from life-saving vaccines.

A healthy start to life is the only way we can ensure a child has a fighting chance at a better future. Vaccines are an important component to that holistic approach, and I look forward to continuing our work with the Pakistani government and the NGO community in ensuring that every child gets access to life-saving vaccines and has a healthy shot at life.

-Ends-

Dr. Seth Berkley
CEO of the GAVI Alliance


Comments

  1. Tahira Malik says

    GAVI Alliance has made incredible efforts in reaching out to the most inaccessible populations especially in Pakistan within a short period of time. I have also recently come across GAVI’s commitment on cervical cancer global crisis card which also a commendable effort.

  2. says

    Dear Mr Seth Berkley.
    Salutations!
    We congratulate you on this out standing contribution to the future generations of Pakistan.It is indeed commendable that your assistance will go a long way in securing the health of 70% of the children in our country.
    Col. Qamar Bashir
    President
    Gender & Community Development Foundation (GCDF)

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