Washington, Nov 1 : Pakistan will be introducing a new combination vaccine, which will provide protection 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. Globally, over 1,000 children under 5 years of age die from Hib-related diseases each day.
Survivors are often permanently disabled-paralyzed, deafened or brain damaged.
The Hib vaccine will be administered through a one-shot immunization called the pentavalent vaccine that also protects against four other deadly diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and hepatitis B.
"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," the expert added.
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.
"The introduction of the pentavalent vaccine represents a major stride toward enabling Pakistan's 160 million inhabitants to make further progress towards the MDGs," said Nina Schwalbe, Deputy Executive Secretary, Director of Policy of the GAVI Alliance.
"The arrival of pentavalent will be a new chapter in the history of Pakistan," said Dr. Hussain Bux Memon, Pakistan's programme manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).
"This vaccine will help us to save the lives of many children," the expert said.