Vaccine boost to children’s health in Myanmar

MYANMAR : Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation will provide US$50 million over the next five years to immunise children against five infectious diseases with a single vaccine, following its launch of the vaccine here in 2012.

The funding will be delivered in annual $10 million tranches, with the government providing an additional $1.3 million a year.

The vaccine, Pentavalent, immunises children against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and a dangerous type of flu (Haemophilus influenza type B) that affects children under the age of five and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis, which is often fatal.

Pentavalent is administered in three doses and protects children against all five viral and bacterial diseases. Previously, children received separate vaccines for each disease.

The new funding follows a proposal submitted by the Ministry of Health to the alliance, which works through a co-financing model that aims for less-developed countries to gradually take over funding of the life-saving vaccinations.

The three doses of the vaccine are given to infants at two-months, four-months and six-months of age. Health ministry staff at government-run clinics and rural health centres will administer them.

Deputy Health Minister Than Aung urged scientists at the medical research department to research the effects of the vaccine on children’s health.

The ministry is providing a range of vaccinations to children under the age of one-and-half years with the goal of reaching coverage of 85 to 90 per cent of all children.

In developed countries, the mortality rate for children under five is about 1 per cent. In less developed and developing countries the rate is as high as 20 per cent. It is estimated that 2.7 million children in developing countries die before they reach the age of five because they have not been vaccinated against preventable diseases.

According to Unicef about 56,000 children under the age of five die in Myanmar every year, with about two-thirds of these deaths occurring before the child reaches his or her first birthday. Myanmar has the highest rate of infant and under-five mortality in the region.

The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation introduced Pentavalent in Myanmar in November 2012, with a plan to immunise 600,000 children within six months. This was followed by a plan to ensure universal coverage. The alliance has also funded vaccinations against measles and Hepatitis B, as well as support for strengthening Myanmar’s overall healthcare delivery system.

Numerous governments, individuals, companies and foundations – including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – and companies such as investment bank JP Morgan fund the alliance.

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