Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Immunity for kids

Child receiving an oral polio vaccine.Image via Wikipedia


IT IS a disease that can be fatal, but now, young children in Singapore will be immunised against pneumococcal disease.

In what appears to be a turnaround, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will now include pneumococcal vaccination into the National Childhood Immunisation Programme (NCIP). Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced this in Parliament yesterday.

"Fortunately, a vaccine is available to protect children against this disease. Extensive studies have shown (it) to be safe and effective. Many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US, have included pneumococcal vaccination in their national childhood immunisation programmes.

"Our Expert Committee on Immunisation has reviewed this, and recommended that we follow suit," Mr Khaw said.

Pneumococcal disease refers to a range of illnesses caused by streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterium commonly known as pneumococcus. The bug can cause meningitis (infection of the lining or spinal cord), pneumonia (infection of the lungs), bacteraemia (blood infection) and otitis media (infection of the middle ear). Detection is not easy because symptoms are similar to those of the common flu.

In 2007, the MOH rejected calls for the vaccination to be included among those for tuberculosis, diptheria, poliomyelitis, tetanus and measles, which are free for Singaporean children.

To an ensuing debate, MOH said the rate for penumonia and meningitis among children in Singapore was low, and had seen no need to include the vaccine in NCIP.

In Singapore, 70 children under five years old were hospitalised for pneumococcal disease every year. Seven deaths have been recorded since 2000. CHANNEL NEWSASIA

From TODAY, Health – Wednesday, 16-Sep-2009