August 8, 2013

Pneumococcal Vaccine Only Available in Iganga District

Four months after Uganda marked the vaccination week with a launch of the Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine in Iganga district, the vaccine has not been seen in any other part of the country.

Dr Acen and PS Kyambadde
Dr Acen and PS Kyambadde

The vaccine is normally given to children below the age of five years and some adults to prevent the Pneumococcal disease. It is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, sometimes referred to as pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many types of illnesses, including ear infections and Meningitis.

Dr Jane Ruth Acen, the Director General Health services, revealed this week that it has not been possible to spread the vaccine to the rest of the country because health workers are yet to be certified by the World Health Organisation on whether they are capable of handling it.

Appearing before the health committee on budgetary issues, the committee questioned why the vaccine has not been available in the rest of the country.

In April this year Government launched of the Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine in Iganga district with an intention to mitigate the high infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.

This was to bring to nine the number of immunisable diseases in all public health facilities including Tuberculosis, Polio, Diphtheria, Tetanus, whooping cough, Hepatitis B, Measles and Haemophilus Influenza type B diseases.

According to conditions set by the World Health Organisation and GAVI before the vaccine is sent out to a hospital, all health workers must be trained on how to look after the vaccine.

Dr Acen says the vaccine is very delicate and extremely expensive that if not well taken care of it can lose its potency.

The Director General adds that it is also a requirement for the WHO to carry out an assessment on the quality of the training before the vaccine is rolled out to the rest of the districts in the country.

So far the Ministry of Health has trained health personnel in 80 out of the 112 districts.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, 86 percent of the unimmunized children in Africa are in only ten countries including Uganda.

The number of unimmunized children in Uganda in 2011 was over 153,000 and had increased to 188,000 by the end of 2012. According to the Uganda Demographic Health survey, the percentage of children fully immunized stands at 52 percent with Measles coverage at 76 percent.

Pneumococcal pneumonia or lung infection is the most common serious form of pneumococcal disease. Its symptoms include fever and chills, cough, rapid breathing or difficulty breathing and chest pain.

In babies, Meningitis may cause poor eating and drinking, low alertness, and vomiting. Pneumococcal bacteremia and sepsis are blood infections that also have symptoms such as fever, chills and low alertness.

Pneumococcus bacteria causes up to half of middle ear infections known as otitis media. Symptoms include ear pain, a red swollen ear drum, fever and sleepiness.

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