The Liberian government is doing all it can to save the lives of more than 150,000 kids who have been targeted to be vaccinated against killer childhood diseases, including pneumonia.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Thursday, January 9, officially launched the pneumococcal vaccine, which is expected to protect children under one year old against at least two childhood killer diseases.
During the launch, held at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Sinkor, Monrovia, the President thanked all the health workers and international partners for doing all they can to help save the lives of Liberian children.
President Sirleaf encouraged parents and guardians to take their kids to the designated health facilities and vaccination spots so that their kids can be vaccinated.
In Liberia, after malaria, pneumonia is the second largest killer of children under five years. It is followed by diarrhea third in line.
In 2012, globally nearly 1.1 million children under 5 died from pneumonia. That is about 3,000 children dying per day.
It is reported that in 2013, at least 7,000 Liberian children died from pneumonia, which could have been prevented had they been vaccinated against it.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) as the pneumonia vaccine is also called, would protect children in Liberia from this dreaded disease. The vaccine would also protect them from other life-threatening conditions like meningitis, which often causes permanent mental disability and seizures for survivors.
The PCV is going to become a permanent list among the vaccines that are administered to children under five except that it is going to be given to infants under one year three times before they reach their first birthdays.
The PCV or pneumonia vaccine, which is “free and safe,” is expected to be available across the country in 550 health centers.
The pneumonia vaccine will benefit over 157, 533 children in Liberia in 2014 alone, and will be a part of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s routine immunization program.
Speaking also, the Resident Representative of UNICEF Liberia Country Office, Mr. Sheldon Yett, stated that the PCV was one of the best new year’s gifts the Government of Liberia was giving the children of Liberia.
Mr. Yett said Liberia has made significant strive in achieving infant mortality reduction, which is largely due to the collaboration of every effort, including the international partners.
He, however, stated that every stakeholder needed to make sure that every child gets access to vaccine, which will prevent them from preventable childhood illnesses.
Also Dr. Bernice Dahn, Chief Medical Officer, Republic of Liberia, said Liberia began its Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) back in 1978 and the country’s EPI primarily targeted preventing children from contacting measles, polio, TB, etc.
Dr. Dahn further stated that there were nine other vaccines, excluding the PCV, that are already among the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s routine administered vaccines to children. She disclosed that the PCV, which prevents against pneumonia and meningitis, is the tenth to be introduced.
Included in the first nine vaccines are BCG vaccine (protects against tuberculosis); polio vaccine (protects against crippling); pentavalent vaccine [protects against diphtheria (sore in throat), tetanus (stiffness or jerking), Hepatitis B (yellow jaundice), etc and measles vaccine (protects against measles).
Others are Yellow fever vaccine (protects against jaundice) and Tetanus vaccine (protects against tetanus in newborn babies).
The PCV has been procured with technical and financial support from GAVI, UNICEF and WHO.