TN health Minister inaugurates pneumococcal vaccine drive


Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian inaugurated the pneumococcal vaccine campaign for children under the age of five years on Tuesday at a public health centre at Poonamalle.

In his address, the minister said that bringing the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) under the universal immunization programme will reduce the death rate in children under five years of age due to pneumonia and meningitis.

Each child, according to the state health department, will be given three doses of vaccine — in the 6th week, 14th week, and 9th month respectively. This is to protect children from pneumonia, one of the major causes for the death of children under the age of five.

Earlier the children used to receive oral polio vaccine (OPV), rotavirus vaccine (oral drops), inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and Penta vaccine (intramuscular injection) under the universal immunisation programme. This list will now include the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine. All these vaccines are administered free of cost to children.

The health department statement said that pneumonia in children is mainly caused by Hemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumonia. While the incidence of pneumonia due to Hemophilus influenza was earlier 85%, it has now been reduced to 15% due to the Penta vaccine. With the administration of PCV, pneumonia due to Streptococcus pneumonia will be reduced, the health department said.

The health department stated that this programme has reduced the incidence of pneumonia among children in developed countries like the United States.

The vaccine is expensive in the market and costs anywhere between Rs 1500 to Rs 3200 per dose. Including the vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme makes it available free of cost, according to senior paediatricians.

With medical organisations like the Indian Medical Association warning of the possibility of a third wave of the pandemic, the Tamil Nadu government’s initiative to vaccinate children under the age of five with Pneumococcus vaccine has been widely accepted in health circles as a welcome sign.

Dr Manonmani. G, a paediatrician in Chennai, told IANS, “The pneumonia is a dangerous disease among toddlers and by including Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine under the UIP, several children will be benefitted and this in turn will help the children not to contract a disease like pneumonia which when coupled with a possibility of Covid-19 will turn fatal in many cases.”