Western Cape Government Health Helps Prevent Child Mortality
According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the "pneumococcus" germ remains a leading cause of serious illness among children and adults worldwide, including bacteremia (invasion of the blood stream), meningitis (infection of the linings of the brain) and pneumonia (infection of the lung tissue). It is also a major cause of sinusitis (infection of the sinuses) and acute otitis media (infection in the middle ear). Acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia are still amongst the leading killers of infants and young children worldwide.
Western Cape Government Health recently launched a four-month campaign to ensure that all children between 18 months and under three years old, as well as high-risk children under six years, receive the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), which provides the best possible protection against diseases caused by the pneumococcus, which are potentially fatal. Between 1 February and 22 March 2012, more than 50 428 children were vaccinated in the province.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: "The campaign forms part of Western Cape Government Health's strategic objective of creating wellness. If we are able to build up people's immunity, they will be healthier and less prone to illness. In this way, in the long-term, we will have less sick people."
This drive is aimed at providing a booster dose of PCV13, which offers a broader spectrum of protection than the previously used seven-valent vaccine (PCV7). It has been met with enthusiasm by parents and caregivers and will run until 31 May 2012.
Mobile teams will be visiting crèches and day care centres throughout the province. To assist the department and ensure their children receive the vaccine, parents/guardians need to read, sign and return the consent form that they receive. Parents whose children do not attend crèche should take their children to their local clinic where child health services are rendered.
Minister Botha adds: "Please use this opportunity to take your children to your nearest clinic for these vaccinations. If you make the effort to take them, government will deliver the service. In this way, we are better together."
The safety and efficacy (whether the vaccines works) of PCV13 have been tested in numerous trials and numerous countries, including South Africa. PCV13 has been shown to be both safe and efficacious in both HIV-uninfected and HIV-infected infants and is preservative-free.
Targeted groups for this Catch-Up Immunisation campaign are:
- All children between 18 and 35 months.
- Children between the ages of 18 and 71 months with underlying medical conditions, eg HIV infection, cardiac conditions and those who are on cytotoxic drug therapy (eg for cancer).