The government will introduce Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b) pentavalent (five-in-one) vaccine in the routine immunisation programme from next year. It will replace the DPT and Hepatitis ‘B’ vaccines.

The Hib vaccine will initially be introduced in 10 States that have an immunisation coverage of more than 80 per cent, said Indian Academy of Paediatrics president Panna Choudhury.

The vaccine will be given at the sixth, 10th and 14th weeks. Each dose will cost Rs.150. The need for such a vaccine is felt more in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but the immunisation coverage in these States is less than 40 per cent, so it is not viable to introduce such a vaccine at present.

Pneumonia is the largest killer of children in India, with 50 per cent of the deaths being caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and Hib, both of which are vaccine preventable, Mr. Choudhury said, speaking at a function organised here on Monday by the Public Health Foundation of India, USAIDS (India) and the Indian Academy of Paediatrics to mark the World Pneumonia Day.

It is the single largest cause of death among children worldwide: every year, it kills 1.8 million children aged under five, accounting for 20 per cent of all deaths under five. India accounts for almost 40 per cent of the worldwide childhood pneumonia cases. It takes the lives of one child every 15 seconds. In India, West Bengal and Delhi have the highest number of pneumonia-related deaths. Preventing pneumonia among children is an essential component of a strategy to cut child mortality, and immunisation against Hib, measles and whooping cough is the most effective way.