By Francis Kagolo
All children below one year of age are to be immunised against pneumonia and meningitis to curb the two killer bacterial infections in the country, according to the latest plan by the health ministry.
Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death of children under five years, while meningitis has also killed hundreds of people whenever it breaks out in different parts of the country.
The health ministry said the vaccine, called pneumococcal or PCV, will also be used to guard children against bacteremia, which is the presence of viable bacteria in blood.
Vaccination against the three infections, which is expected to cost about sh62b, starts on April 1, according to Rukia Nakamatte, the health ministry’s spokesperson.
“All children under one year will receive PCV when they go for routine immunisation services. This vaccine is given in three doses at different intervals,” said nakamatte.
She added that the vaccine will be administered freely in all public health facilities. It will be given when the baby is one-and-a-half months, at two-and-a-half months and at three-and-a-half months.
“It will be given at the same session with the pentavalent vaccine as per the immunisation schedule. An injection will be administered on the upper part of the right thigh,” nakamatte explained in a statement yesterday.
This brings to eight the total number of immunisable diseases in Uganda. The others are measles, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and whooping cough.
nakamatte said pneumococcal or PCV is safe and highly effective in protecting children against meningitis, pneumonia and bacteremia.
The vaccine will also prevent children from serious forms of pneumonia and meningitis.
Although there will be a small risk of children contracting other forms of pneumonia, Nakamatte said the risk is lower compared to children who are not vaccinated with PCV at all.
She appealed to parents to take their children for vaccination against all immunisable diseases.
About 27,000 children die of pneumonia in Uganda every year, according to statistics released by the Uganda Paediatrics Association in 2009.