The five-in-one pentavalent vaccine will be available free of cost in all districts of the state from next month.
The vaccine provides protection against five life-threatening diseases -- diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and hib (haemophilus influenza type b).
Hib is the primary cause of childhood pneumonia and meningitis. The DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) and hepatitis B are already part of the national routine immunisation programme.
Pneumonia is one of the largest killers among children aged one month to five years.
“We are planning to launch it from December 1,” said Husan Lal, managing director, Punjab Health Systems Corporation.
According to sources in the state health department, a large number of children will be covered during the first year. This will not only prevent morbidity associated with pneumonia and meningitis but also avert thousands of deaths due to these diseases annually. The vaccine will be available free of cost at all public health institutions and through the state routine immunisation programme.
As per state health department officials, under the current immunisation programme, a child requires nine injection pricks for different vaccination. But the pentavalent vaccine will reduce the number of pricks it to just three.
Dr Rajesh Kumar, head of the School of Public Health, Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, who has advocated the pentavalent programme for several years, said it would also provide logistical convenience since five vaccines would be stored in a single vial and a lot of space would be freed up for storage and transportation.
“Under this programme, a single auto-disable syringe will be used instead of three per child, thereby substantially reducing plastic and sharp waste,” he added.
“People hailing from upper and upper middle classes were able to afford it earlier as it was available privately (for Rs 500-2,000). But now, with the state government providing it, it will be within the reach of the poor as well. It will significantly decrease the disease burden,” he said.
Tamil Nadu and Kerala were the first states to launch the programme in 2011. Haryana had launched it around two years ago.