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Preventing Childhood Diseases In India Must Be Prioritized

“As India celebrates Children’s Day [on Thursday], the frightening UNICEF statistic that 1.4 million children under five die every year in this country, the vast majority of them from preventable diseases, should not be forgotten,” T. Jacob John, a retired professor of clinical virology at Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, writes in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. He highlights a report released by John Hopkins University on World Pneumonia Day, observed Tuesday, which “shows that globally, India has the highest number of children dying as a result of pneumonia and diarrhea, 436,000 every year, and little progress has been made in terms of prevention or treatment.”

“India has made some progress in the last year in terms of pneumonia prevention by introducing the pentavalent vaccine into the government’s immunization program in nine states,” John notes. “However, the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against the most common cause of pneumonia, is not available in the government immunization program in India, despite its introduction in 88 countries, including our neighbor Pakistan,” he continues, adding, “We need to prioritize preventing childhood diseases to ensure that more children make it to their fifth birthdays and beyond, and to ensure that those who do aren’t burdened with life-long disabilities” (11/14).