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Tackling the threats of pneumonia and diarrhoea

Two separate, yet related events spell good news for children under five in India.

The first is the news that over five million children have been vaccinated in just over a year with the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine as part of routine immunisation in six states in India. Besides offering protection against diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough and hepatitis B, the vaccine offers the additional benefit of protection against Haemophilus influenza B (HiB), a leading cause of major strains of pneumonia, which claims the lives of 370,000 children under five each year in India alone. The country accounts for the highest number of pneumonia-related deaths in the world.

The other event concerns another ruthless killer of children, diarrhoea, which claims the lives of 152,000 children under the age of five every year in India alone. The most common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and children is the rotavirus and good news has filtered in from Mexico where data from three regions indicates that vaccination against the rotavirus has lead to a 50% decrease in diarrhoea-related deaths in children under the age of five.

Two vaccines protecting against the rotavirus are currently available in the private market in India, albeit at a price that may be too steep for many Indians to afford. The best possible news would be if an easy-to-administer, affordable version of the rotavirus vaccine is made available in India so that the Mexican success story can be replicated here and the lives of thousands of children could be saved from the scourge of diarrhoea.


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