Pakistan is aiming to vaccinate around 12.7 million children in the second phase Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV). This new campaign is targeting not only the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT)/Capital Development Authority areas but also 12 districts in Punjab from today.
Under this new campaign millions of children between ages of nine months to 15 years will be vaccinated providing them immunization against a highly infectious disease.
In 2019, Pakistan became the first country in the world to introduce Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV) into its routine immunization program. In the first phase vaccination was launched in Sindh which successfully concluded with vaccination of nearly 10 million children.
The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan said that “Every child has the right to live a healthy life and therefore Pakistan has prioritized strengthening its immunization program”.
She further added that: “It is high time that we protect our children from typhoid and other contagious diseases to give them a healthy start in life and a secure future. The present government is proactive to protect children against this fatal disease through a phased strategy”.
The reason for starting the TCV drive in 2019 and now again in 2021 was the high number of typhoid cases in Pakistan, 8000 cases were reported in 2020 alone.
As the disease is most commonly caused by contaminated drinking water, poor sanitation infrastructure, and lack of food safety preventive measures, Dr Rana Safdar, Director General of Health advised that:
“Typhoid can be prevented through an aggressive vaccination drive in areas where high number of infections are recorded. The Government of Pakistan has launched this vaccination campaign aiming to immunize maximum number of children in Punjab and the ICT. We urge parents to fully cooperate with health workers and vaccinators who are carrying out this door-to-door campaign.”
Around 6,975 skilled and trained vaccinators and 6,975 assistants are engaged by government to effectively and safely immunize children during this second phase of TCV campaign. Along with this, a total of 13,950 social mobilisers have also been trained to visit households mobilizing parents and caregivers to visit the vaccination sites with their children.
Talking about this campaign Dr. Palitha Mahipala, World Health Organisation Representative in Pakistan, said:
“Typhoid, especially the extensively drug-resistant variant is a serious disease. Vaccination is one of the most effective public health interventions. We highly appreciate the support being received from the Punjab Government and ICT/CDA authorities for this campaign which aims to vaccinate large number of children in the shortest possible time.”
The number of Typhoid cases registered in the country and the emergence of extensively drug-resistant Typhoid is an alarming situation. It can however be controlled through TCV which is a one-dose vaccine, injected intramuscularly, at a lower cost, has higher efficacy, and is expected to provide long lasting immunity in adults, children, and infants older than nine months of age.
Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan believes that:
“TCV has tremendous potential to prevent transmission of typhoid and limit the spread of drug-resistant typhoid strains with only one dose. This vaccine is safe and has low rates of general side-effects. Children who are most at risk are being prioritized in this phase of the TCV campaign. UNICEF remains committed to continue its support to the Expanded Programme on Immunization in Pakistan, through technical assistance, risk communication and community engagement and procurement of vaccines, in collaboration with WHO and other partners. We will not rest until each and every child is protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.”