Health experts highlight EPI weaknesses
KARACHI, Nov 7: Leaders of the Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) have pointed out weaknesses in the expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) and urged the government to make it more effective and vibrant with the help of a meaningful monitoring system.
PPA president Prof Dr Iqbal Memon told a press conference at the Karachi Press Club here on Wednesday that speakers at the recently concluded biennial international paediatric conference at Karachi had noted that meaningful success could not be achieved in reducing child and mother mortality rate in the country without making field workers, including lady health workers, and centres designated for implementation of the EPI more vibrant, accountable and target oriented.
He said that vaccination centres under the EPI were in urgent need of improvement. Although the centres did not match number of children who required preventive vaccines against diseases, still many of them had turned non-functional because of lack of required facilities.
Besides, the available workforce did not report at the centres and continued to draw salaries without any trouble because either they enjoyed political patronage or they went unnoticed in the absence of a meaningful monitoring system, he said.
Highlighting recommendations of the international conference, Prof Memon said that in addition to educating communities about importance of routine vaccination of children, particularly at a time when a new expensive pneumococcal vaccine for children under one year was to be introduced shortly across the country, it was highly important to ensure that the vaccines reached all children equally in urban and rural areas.
Answering a question he said that the proposal to make it mandatory for parents to produce vaccination cards at the time of seeking admission of their infant wards to schools or applying to NADRA for identity cards or registration could also help improve rate of immunisation coverage.
He announced that PPA had decided to observe 2013-14 as the year to promote and increase the impact of routine vaccination.
He urged the government to put in place a proper service structure in the public health sector and also called upon the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to give more importance to paediatric healthcare education and review its decision to reduce examination marks for child health subjects in the MBBS programme.
Prof Memon said that the conference recommended that provincial governments should establish an exclusive and fully-fledged emergency medical care centre for children at all teaching hospitals within their jurisdiction to help check mortality rate of newborns in the country.
The conference recommended establishment of liver transplantation centres for children across the country, he said.
Dr Sami Ahmad, a PPA leader and information secretary for the international conference, said the conference also discussed status of malnutrition of children and crucial anemic condition of mothers-to-be and experts stressed the need for reorganising the maternal health activities in the country.
He said that about 2,500 delegates, including local and foreign child healthcare experts and practitioners, attended the three-day (Nov 2-4) international conference.
The PPA hosted delegates from the USA, the UK, Canada, China, India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Middle East countries, he said.