KIGALI - An official in the Ministry of Health has said that currently about 95 percent of children less than one year of age are receiving the pneumococcal vaccine in the country.
Dr. Fidele Ngabo, the Coordinator Maternal and Child Health Department in the ministry, revealed this yesterday in a press conference held at Laico Umubano hotel yesterday.
Pneumococcal disease describes a group of illnesses caused by the bacterium, streptococcus pneumonia. It colonises the upper respiratory tract and can spread to other sites in the body, resulting in several types of diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia and bacteremia.
Pneumococcal vaccination was launched in the country in April last year.
The disease is the major cause of mortality and morbidity and it is estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to cause 1.6 million deaths each year globally. More than four million cases of pneumococcal disease occur in Africa among children less than five years of age; of these 3.8 million are pneumonia.
WHO indicates an average of 21 percent of children less than five years of age in Rwanda, die of pneumonia each year.
According to Ngabo, HIV infection, poor hygiene and breastfeeding a child for less than six months are the main causes of pneumococcal disease.
“HIV infected children have a higher risk of contracting pneumonia and developing complications from the disease, and exposure to HIV has been shown to increase the risk of developing pneumonia,” Ngabo said.
Rwanda and Gambia were the first countries to administer doses of the vaccine in Africa. Other countries that have been approved by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to roll out this programme include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).