Vaccines are very effective in decreasing child illness and deaths. In 1974, the World Health Organization realized that only 5% of world's children, who lived in rich countries, had access to vaccines. It was realized that since most child deaths occur in poor countries, we need to bring these vaccines to the countries as a priority. Therefore, a program called 'Expanded Program for Immunization' (EPI) was created, through which vaccines were to be provided free of cost to children in poor countries.
In Pakistan, the EPI program was launched in 1978. Vaccines against six diseases were initially included. These six diseases were TB, Polio, Pertussis, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Measles. In 2001, Hepatitis B vaccine was added to this list, and in 2009, vaccine against Hemophilus Influenzae type B was added. In 2012, pneumococcal vaccine has been added to the free immunization program in Pakistan as well.
All these vaccines are supposed to be provided free of cost to all children in Pakistan through dedicated vaccination centers spread through out the country. It is also the responsibility of the parents to make sure that their children receive all these vaccines. The government claims that almost 80% of all children in Pakistan receive the EPI vaccines, while independent surveys put this figure to around 50-60%. It is the need of the hour that just like most other countries, our EPI coverage in Pakistan should be close to 100%.