Islamabad has long grappled with the challenge of increasing vaccine uptake in a nation where misinformation is rife and some fringe clerics declare it un-Islamic.
Pneumonia has claimed the lives of 303 children in the Punjab Province of Pakistan in the month of January, according to sources in the provincial health department.
According to the Punjab Health Department, a total of 764 new cases of pneumonia were reported on Friday itself – while the provincial capital logged 178 fresh cases of pneumonia. While Punjab has reported 303 pneumonia-related deaths, over 18,000 cases have been reported in the province this year.
Rain usually brings respite, soaking up pollution particles, but Pakistan has endured an unusually dry and cold winter – making children vulnerable to respiratory infection, Arab News quoted doctors as saying while according to UNICEF, around half of childhood pneumonia deaths are associated with air pollution.
On Thursday, the provincial government extended school holidays, clipped classroom hours and mandated face masks in a bid to shield children.
Anadolu News quoted Jamal Nasir, a senior health official as saying that the disease affects people in the province every year.
“Every year 55,000 to 60,000 children die in Pakistan because of pneumonia and this is not the first time,” Nasir said, urging parents to vaccinate their children.
“We are providing free vaccination across the province and parents should vaccinate their children,” he said.
Pakistan offers free jabs for respiratory disease at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age. But Islamabad has long grappled with the challenge of increasing vaccine uptake in a nation where misinformation is rife and some fringe clerics declare it un-Islamic.
Premature births and stunting caused by malnutrition are also prevalent, weakening children who are then easy prey for pneumonia.
The news finds no space in the national media that is obsessed with the upcoming elections and the on-going political fest.