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Vaccination against pneumonia during Hajj (Sep 27 2012)

Karachi, September 27, 2012: An awareness campaign has been being launched by Pfizer Pakistan Limited to educate the public on the hazards of pneumonia and pneumococcal infections. The campaign covers various facets including prevention through vaccination in adults above the age of 50 as well as children less than 5 years of age. Popular TV artist Sajid Hassan represents the awareness campaign which also highlights the importance of pneumococcal vaccination during Hajj and Umrah.

Pneumonia in the elderly during hajj is a point of concern for all developing nations including Pakistan which has a steadily growing elderly population. It is estimated that over 150,000 perform Hajj annually and over 50% of the Hujjaj are over the age of 50. Hujjaj are exposed to several vaccine preventable respiratory diseases during mass gatherings such as Tuberculosis, Influenza, Pneumococcal infections.

Pneumonia from bacterial and viral agents is the fourth leading cause of death in persons over age 65, accounting for 169.7 deaths per 100,000 persons per year. In 2003, Saudi Health authorities reported to have hospitalized 808 patients of whom majority (79%) were older than 40 years. Pneumonia (19.7%), ischemic heart disease (12.3%), and trauma (9.4%) were the most common admitting diagnoses. According to the WHO, Pneumonia / Pneumococcal disease and its complications are the largest cause of deaths because of vaccine preventable infections globally, with estimated death toll of 1.6 million people each year.

At the launch of this campaign, Dr. Syed Nadeem Rizvi, former president of the Pakistan Chest Society said, “Pakistani Hajj and Umrah pilgrims over the age of 50 are at high risk and prone to get infected with pneumonia during hajj. Given the risk of pneumonia and its complications during Hajj, pneumococcal vaccine should be offered to all older pilgrims and to younger pilgrims with chronic conditions”.

Pneumonia, if untreated, may lead to various other fatal complications. Research confirms that Pneumonia is the largest cause of hospitalization of Hajj performers during Hajj season amounting to more than 19.7% hospitalization rate. There are various risk factors of acquiring pneumonia; however people who are 50 years and above or people with diabetes, chronic heart, lungs, kidney or liver disease are very prone to contracting pneumonia.

There is a heightened need to vaccinate against pneumococcal infections in those performing Hajj. This disease can now be prevented through a vaccine that provides long term protection against 13 of the most common strains of pneumonia in adults aged 50 and above.