WHO, UNICEF to provide anti-diphtheria serum to Pakistan as 39 children die

A woman, who became flood victim, takes care of her ailing baby at a hospital, following rains and floods during the monsoon season in Jamshoro, Pakistan September 20, 2022. — Reuters 
  • At  least 39 children, teenagers die across Pakistan due to diphtheria.
  • Pediatricians say diphtheria outbreak due to non-availability of vaccine.
  • Deaths show failure of country’s routine immunisation programme.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have decided to provide anti-diphtheria serum as dozens of children died following a recent surge in the deadly infectious disease.

Despite claims of an increase in routine immunisation rates in the country, at least 39 children and teenagers succumbed to the vaccine-preventable disease, which was wiped off from most parts of the world.

The officials said that UNICEF was making arrangements for the provision of anti-diphtheria serums and while WHO is also making efforts in this regard.

Paediatricians said that the diphtheria outbreak was due to the non-availability of the pentavalent vaccine and anti-diphtheria serum.

As per the officials, the anti-diphtheria serum is manufactured in very less amounts due to the disease’s eradication across the globe.

“Diphtheria is a lethal bacterial infection, a vaccine-preventable disease, but every week dozens of diphtheria cases are now being reported from Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan while suspected diphtheria cases are also being reported from Azad Jammu and Kashmir”, an official of the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C) said.

Infectious disease experts and paediatricians are blaming the federal and provincial programmes of immunisation for the rise in cases and calling for an immediate overhaul of the federal and provincial Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).

According to experts, diphtheria is a serious infection caused by strains of bacteria called ‘Corynebacterium diphtheria that make toxins. It can lead to breathing, heart rhythm problems, and even death. Pakistani children are given a vaccine, a combination of five vaccines that protects from five major diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (DTP-hepB-Hib).

Originally published in

The News

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