ISLAMABAD: With the introduction of a new vaccine to protect children from pneumonia, Pakistan has become the first country in South Asia to introduce the Pneumococcal vaccine.
Pneumonia is a disease that takes the lives of approximately 1.3 million children globally before their 5th birthday.
"As the first country in South Asia to introduce the Pneumococcal vaccine, Pakistan's commitment to immunizing all children against vaccine preventable diseases is to be applauded," said UNICEF Pakistan Country Representative, Dan Rohrmann.
"We are proud to partner with the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to inoculate millions of children against a disease that continues to take too many lives."
The latest UN estimates indicate that pneumonia accounts for 18 percent of child mortality, the primary cause of death among young children globally.
In Pakistan, more than 352,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday and almost one in five of these deaths are due to pneumonia.
While the new Pneumococcal vaccines cannot prevent every case of pneumonia, they do prevent a significant proportion of cases and therefore have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives from preventable sickness and death.
"Today's historic introduction of Pneumococcal vaccine underlines our commitment to the children of Pakistan," said Deputy CEO of the GAVI Alliance, Helen Evans.
"Through our partners on the ground and working with the Government of Pakistan, we aim to reach millions of children with this lifesaving Pneumococcal vaccine.
"I am pleased that the GAVI's strong financial commitment is being matched by the will of the Pakistan Government to tackle a disease that needlessly claims the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistani children every year."
The introduction of the Pneumococcal vaccine is an important milestone in the fight to reduce the burden caused by pneumonia in Pakistan.
The partnership between the Government of Pakistan and the GAVI Alliance-which includes UNICEF, WHO and civil society, among many other partners-to deliver this life-saving vaccine to Pakistan's children, as well as a renewed commitment to strengthening the current routine immunization system, provides a solid foundation for a stronger, healthier nation.
"The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the launch of the Pneumococcal vaccine in Pakistan" said, WHO Representative in Pakistan, Dr. Guido Sabatinelli.
"Above all, we must not lose sight of the heavy infant and child mortality burden facing Pakistan's families; the introduction of the Pneumococcal vaccine represents an important milestone in the fight to reduce this burden.
We look forward to working in partnership with the Government of Pakistan, UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance to deliver this life-saving vaccine to Pakistan's children. We also hope that procurement procedures can be streamlined and be made more efficient so that life-saving vaccines make their way to the communities that need it most."