National immunisation drive

The campaign, to be conducted in collaboration with the private sector, is aimed at providing children under the age of five with an additional dose of PCV13, which protects them against pneumococcal disease.

From 3 February to the end of May, the department will provide the additional dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at local clinics free of charge to two groups of children.  

The first group will include children between the ages of 18 months and 36 months. The second group includes children with underlying medical conditions, including those infected with HIV, cardiac conditions, those who are on cytotoxics and those with no spleen and other similar conditions.  

The PCV vaccine provides protection not only for the targeted children, but through reducing carriage of the bacterium in the blood. It also protects many others who are not vaccinated like the elderly, adults with cardiac and immune-compromising conditions and those who are HIV infected.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said it was worrying that a high number of children were dying before their fifth birthday from diseases that are vaccine-preventable.

It is estimated that up to one million children under the age of five die from pneumococcal diseases which include pneumococcal meningitis, pneumonia and bacteraemia every year.

“I am worried that given our performance in this area (infant and child mortality), we may not be able to realise our MDG (Millennium Development Goal) commitments – especially the one about reducing child mortality,” said Motsolaedi.  

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