Report: Uganda

Uganda aims to save children's lives with pneumonia vaccine drive

Getty Images/ ERproductions Ltd

Pneumonia kills thousands of Ugandan children every year. A new vaccination programme aims to defeat the illness.


Uganda is rolling out the immunisation against pneumonia using a new vaccine called Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV 10). The vaccine has been introduced to mitigate the high infant and childhood death rate and illnesses due to lung infections.

  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine was first introduced in sub-Saharan Africa two years ago.
  • In Kenya and Ethiopia the vaccine was introduced in 2011.
  • Madagascar and Mozambique started using this vaccine in 2012.
  • Uganda and Zambia are introducing the vaccine in their routine immunisation programme this year.

Pneumonia is the second leading cause of infant mortality in Uganda after malaria with  18,000 children below the age of five dying of pneumonia every year.

Children under one year are most at risk of getting pneumonia. Factors that expose a child to the lung infection are lack of exclusive breastfeeding, indoor air pollution, poor nutrition and inadequate ventilation.

The health ministry’s director general of health services, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, says the introduction of PCV 10 into the routine immunisation programme will prevent more than 94,071 new cases and save more than 10,796 lives per year.

“Children have been suffering from pneumonia without any measure of prevention, and we are happy that the government of Uganda in collaboration with GAVI [a coalition of children's health NGOs] in introducing this new vaccine free of charge for all children under one year age” she says.

Children will get three doses. Infants will receive the first dose at six weeks, another at 10 weeks and the last dose at 14 weeks after birth.

Unicef's Dr Irene Mwenyango says the drug is safe, free and effective against diseases caused by pneumococcus bacteria. It will offer immunity against infection of the brain covering (meningitis), infection of the lungs (pneumonia), bacteria in blood (bacteraemia), ear infections among others.

A total of 1,521,061 children are expected to be immunised this year across the country.

Administration of this vaccine was set to start on Saturday 27 April in the eastern district of Iganga and then rolled out throughout the country in all health centres

Uganda has low immunisation coverage with only 52 per cent of children fully immunised, so half the child population at a greater risk of being wiped out by preventable killer diseases.

This is attributed to inadequate community sensitisation and mobilisation.

And a sect calling itself 666 is reported to be campaigning against immunisation in rural areas, telling parents and guardians it is not safe. The government has vowed to deal with them since their message is confusing parents.

It is estimated that 17,216,000 euros will be spent on the new drug. Under the cost-sharing arrangement, the government of Uganda will contribute 919,000 euros while GAVI is contributing 16,296,000 euros.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) pneumonia is the world's leading cause of child deaths, killing an estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five every year, more than Aids, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

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