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UN: Pakistan First in Region to Launch Pneumonia Vaccine

  • VOA News

The United Nations says Pakistan is the first country in South Asia to introduce a vaccine to protect Pakistani children from pneumonia.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raja Pervez Ashraf announced the launch of a new vaccination campaign Tuesday as part of a partnership between the government and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which is made up of UNICEF, WHO and members of civil society.

UNICEF health specialist Azhar Abid Raza said that childhood pneumonia is one of the major killers in Pakistan, with more than 350,000 children dying from the disease before they reach their fifth birthday.

Worldwide, the U.N. estimates that pneumonia accounts for 18 percent of child mortality, making it the primary cause of death among young children.

GAVI says while pneumococcal vaccines cannot prevent every case of the illness, they can prevent a significant proportion of cases and have a the potential to save tens of thousands of lives from preventable sickness and death.

Pneumonia is a lower respiratory tract infection that can be caused by a bacteria or a virus.

Also Tuesday, World Health Organization officials said that a "brain-eating" amoeba has killed 10 people in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.

The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, is commonly found in warm freshwater and usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose and reaches the brain, where it infects the tissue. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a stiff neck.

The disease has a 98 percent fatality rate, with death usually occurring within five to seven days after the infection.

Health centers and local authorities in Karachi are on alert for the amoeba.