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Pakistan introduces vaccine to prevent top child killer
Date:10/31/2008

This month, Pakistan is introducing a new combination vaccine that will protect its children against the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and four other common childhood diseases.

Hib, a bacterium that can cause deadly meningitis and pneumonia, is one of the top killers of young children in the developing world. Even with treatment, an estimated 23,000 children die of Hib disease in Pakistan every year. Survivors are often permanently disabledparalyzed, deafened or brain damaged. Globally, over 1,000 children under 5 years of age die from Hib-related diseases each day.

"This is excellent news for generations of Pakistani children and their families. Pakistan is the largest country to date of all developing countries to introduce Hib vaccine into their national immunization program," said Dr. Rana Hajjeh, Director of the Hib Initiative. "The government's decision to introduce Hib-containing pentavalent vaccine will protect millions of infants against some of the most dangerous childhood infections, including one of the major causes of pneumonia and meningitis."

Hib is estimated to cause about 20 percent of life-threatening pneumonia cases, and it is the most common cause of life-threatening meningitis in children under 5 years of age both worldwide and in Pakistan. According to UNICEF and WHO, two million children die from pneumonia every year, making it the top child killer worldwide. Ninety-two thousand of child pneumonia deaths occur in Pakistan alone.

Although health indicators are steadily improving in Pakistan, the nation is still far from achieving its child health-related Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets by 2015. 1 in 10 children still do not survive their fifth birthday. Most child deaths are due to pneumonia, diarrhea, and other vaccine-preventable diseases. "The introduction of the pentavalent vaccine represents a major stride toward enabling Pakistan's 160 million inhabitants to make furthe
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Contact: Rose Reis
rreis@jhsph.edu
410-502-4283
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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