No Hope Is Lost
Vaccination prevents pediatric plight
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Pharmaceuticals gathered young media parents, together with celebrity mom Barbie Almalbis-Honasan, recently to address two of the causes for mortality in young children: pneumonia and diarrhea.
Simply dubbed “No Hope is Lost,” the event was an awareness campaign against the fight for these killer diseases. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death for children below 5 years old; accounting for 1.1-million deaths worldwide in 2012 alone. Diarrhea, on the other hand, is the second cause of mortality for the same age bracket; claiming 760,000 young lives each year globally.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DoH) records show that in children aged 1-59 months old, 37 die of pneumonia daily while 13 die of diarrhea.
The good news is that both diseases now have preventive measures available. Vaccines for both the streptococcus pneumonia and rotavirus (the most common diarrhea pathogen) are now readily available. “Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs or an acute infection in the lower respiratory tract. Symptoms include difficult or rapid breathing, cough, colds, fever, chills, headaches, loss of appetite, and wheezing. The latter symptom occurs because of the tightening of the respiratory tract,” informed Dr. Sally Gatchalian, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines.
“Diarrhea occur when watery stools are excreted 3-4 times daily or more. This condition leads to fluid loss and dehydration that may result in death. The rotavirus strain can on stay solid surfaces for several days, like children’s toys, so it is best that parents wash their hands thoroughly during instances when the disease visit their children,” elucidated Dr. Gatchalian, who also sits as deputy executive director for the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination.
The Philippines is one of the 194 member states who have convened to come up with the integrated Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD). Our DoH is likewise implementing a program for ending preventable child deaths for pneumonia and diarrhea by 2025.
“Vaccines can be given as early as six weeks from birth. During the child’s third to fifth month of age is the peak of rotavirus incidence here in the Philippines. The organisms for pneumonia are present in the throat. So if the immune system is down or whenever there’s cough & colds, this disrupts the protective membrane of the organism causing it to sicken your child.
“Our goal is to provide better access to all children in all communities. So that there will be less than three deaths for every thousand live births for pneumonia cases, and only a single death (or none at all) for every thousand live births in the case of diarrhea,” Dr. Gatchalian said at the end of our colloquy.
The UNICEF and World Health Organization have a three-pronged approach to combat these two killer diseases: protect, prevent and treat. These two agencies suggest that for your child to have proper antibodies, they must be breastfed within six months from birth. That they be given Vitamin A supplementation together with zinc as this prevents the severity of diarrhea. Zinc also maintains the integrity of the intestinal mucosa and lining.
Let us always remember the ages-old adage, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” Therefore, better be safe than sorry.