BENGALURU: Back in 2016, the Union Health Ministry introduced the pneumococcal vaccine in five states — Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar — in order to reduce child mortality. Presenting the Union Budget on Monday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that this vaccine will be rolled out across the country. Health experts have said this is a step in the right direction, especially during the pandemic times.
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections. It’s also known as the pneumonia vaccine. Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a kind of blood poisoning) and meningitis. It was introduced in India with increased evidence of high morbidity and mortality in children under five years of age due to pneumonia.
Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD and Consultant - Pulmonology and Lung Transplant Physician Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road, said the mortality due to pneumonia accounts for around 27% of all deaths due to communicable diseases every year in India. “Patients suffering from airway diseases like Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and patients in an immuno-compromised status are particularly vulnerable to pneumococcal infection.”
He said, “ The pneumococcal vaccine comes in two variants -- Prevenar 13 and Pneumovax 23. These vaccines provide protection against 13 and 23 strains of pneumonia respectively. While most people who contract pneumonia are able to mount an adequate immune response and fight the infection, the aforementioned groups are particularly vulnerable due to their suppressed immunity. Hence, it becomes important that these risk groups receive the pneumococcal vaccine at the earliest. We welcome the move of making this vital vaccination available to all the citizens of India.”
Dr Suri Raju V, CEO, Regal Hospital, said, “In the time of Covid-19 pandemic, the health advisers to the government have rightly decided to roll out the pneumococcal vaccine to the entire country. The reason being, this vaccine is for life ----if citizens younger than 2 years old are given four shots and those aged 65 or above two shots.”He said, “If we look at Covid-19, it affects the lungs and many of them get pneumonia. Now, this vaccine, along with the Covid-19 shot, will make a great difference in the health system.”