DUBAI // A vaccine that can protect young children from the worst effects of illnesses including pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis was introduced yesterday by the Ministry of Health.
The Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine PCV13 helps prevent a bacteria that can gravely affect children by causing blood infections, pneumonia, ear infections and meningitis.
The vaccine is given to children under two in the developed world. It was first made available in the UAE in December, replacing an existing vaccine.
The first injections are recommended as four doses to be taken at two, four and six months, followed by a booster shot at 18 months.
"Every year, there is a new vaccine on the UAE market, but this one is the most advanced vaccine for pneumococcal diseases and it is also the safest one," said Dr Mahmoud Fikri, the ministry's executive director of health policies.
The PCV13 vaccine is part of the National Immunisation Programme, which also includes the Expanded Programme on Immunisation and school health immunisation.
Dr Salem al Darmaki, the ministry's acting undersecretary, said pneumonia prevention had been made a priority.
"Streptococcus pneumonia is one the main causes of both common and severe illnesses," he said. "It can cause something as seemingly simple as an upper respiratory infection, and it can also cause a situation as life-threatening as advanced pneumonia."
These infections can be difficult to treat because some strains of the bacteria have become resistant to the drugs that are used to treat them.
This makes their prevention through the new vaccine even more important.
Dr Darmaki said easily transferable infectious diseases were on the rise in the country.
"With this in mind, we are dedicated to containing the risks of infectious disease by taking very specific steps to reduce incidence and prevalence rates," Dr Darmaki said.
The best approach was systematic prevention, he added.
Based on World Health Organisation recommendations, new vaccines were also introduced during the workshop to be placed under consideration for the future, including those for varicella, rotavirus and cervical cancer.