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500 of 100,000 Die of Pneumonia

Aug 25, 2009, 2:09 PM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

(Monday 24th August 2009 issue)

Dr Mariatou Jallow, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, has said that pneumococcal studies conducted by the Medical Research Council in the Upper River Region indicates that 500 out of 100, 000 children under the age of one year die as a result of pneumonia, which is recognised as one of the most commonest causes of deaths in the pre-school child.

Minister Jallow, who was speaking at the launch of the new pneumococcal conjugate disease held at the Kanifing Municipal Council last Wednesday, said it is in recognition of the invasive nature of pneumococcal disease in children that prompted the search for a new vaccine. The vaccine, she added, is 89 percent effective in preventing invasive disease caused by all strains of pneumococcal.

According to Dr Jallow, the World Health Organisation issued a position paper in March 2007, stating that the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) in national immunisation programmes should be a priority for countries where under five mortality is above 50/1000 live births.

"It is anticipated that the routine use of the new vaccine can avert a significant number of needless childhood deaths by the year 2015, and move the Gambia closer to reaching MDG4", she said, adding that the launch of the new vaccine was a historical landmark for the Gambia and a seminal moment for West Africa and other developing countries around the world.

"We are recommended for saving the lives and improving the health of our children and families, and we are proud to set an example for our West African neighbours to follow with the introduction of this vaccine", she said. Dr Jallow also noted that the goal of significantly reducing childhood deaths in our country will now be within reach.

Also, speaking at the launch, Edele Thebaud of UNICEF stated that the immense scientific achievement of vaccines and immunisation, targeting children and women of child-bearing age in all countries, represents one of the most successful and cost effective public health interventions in the history.

Immunisation, she stated, has substantially eradicated smallpox, reduced morbidity and mortality from diphtheria, pertusis, tetanus and measles, and that it is also on the verge of eradicating polio.