Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung - especially affecting the microscopic air sacs (alveoli) - associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space (consolidation) on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes. Infectious agents include: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Vaccines to prevent certain types of pneumonia are available. Although pneumonia can affect any one regardless of age but children below 5 years of age are at high risk of getting pneumonia if proper care is not taken.
Children also contract pneumonia due to changing weather or exposure to cold. If children get vaccinated against pneumonia then it will at least protect them from certain types of pneumonia. The WHO has recommended pneumonia vaccination and it is available in the private healthcare settings. “Vaccination against pneumonia is specific to the causative agent. As pneumonia can be caused by virus, fungi or bacteria or other parasites, vaccines too are specific in protecting children against specific types of pneumonia. Vaccines against two of the main causes of life-threatening pneumonia - pneumococcal (Streptococcus pneumoniae) and Hib (Haemophilus influenzae Type b) have been developed and are currently being used in the developed countries. But coverage in third world countries like India (which accounts for almost 40% of the worldwide childhood pneumonia cases) is low, particularly of pneumococcal vaccines” said Dr Verma.
Added Dr Verma: “Immunization protects children from pneumonia. All children have the right to this protection. The WHO immunization schedule for infants recommends that children receive Hib and Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in 3 doses over a period of the first 6 months. These are not available in government public sector hospitals. In government hospitals seven vaccinations are provided which includes DPT, polio, BCG, hepatitis B among others. However if parents want their children to be vaccinated against pneumonia then they have to buy it from the private pharmacies.”
Agrees Dr Rama Shankhdhar, senior Gynaecologist and Obstetrician in Indira Nagar, Lucknow: “The WHO has recommended the young infants to receive Hib and Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in 3 doses over a period of the first 6 months (with a difference of 1 month between every dose) and it protects children from specific types of pneumonia. Vaccine is very specific and doesn’t provide protection against all forms of pneumonia. All precautions must be taken even after vaccination to reduce the risk factors to protect our child. Proper treatment and care should be taken of the child whenever she or he shows first symptoms such as fever or cold.”
Pneumonia vaccines are not available in government healthcare settings. They can be easily bought from the private pharmacies but not provided free as part of the national immunization programme. “Vaccination against pneumonia is recommended by the WHO but not available in government hospitals” said Dr RS Dubey, Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS), Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow. Probably this is the reason why three children we met in the slums behind Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Gomti Nagar (Jyoti, Tulsi and Yasmeen) developed pneumonia as their parents couldn’t afford to buy the vaccines from private pharmacies and other risk factors were also present in the surroundings where the slum in.
Nadeem Salmani – CNS
(Translation: Bobby Ramakant – CNS)