Nearly one-and-a-half million infants are to be protected against childhood diseases by a national vaccination program financed jointly by the government and an international immunisation organisation.
The program, to be launched in November, will target 1.4 million children under the age of one year, an official from the Ministry of Health told The Myanmar Times late last month.
The government will contribute US$5.3 million for the five-year program, with $10 million being provided by the Global Alliance on Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI) over the period 2012-2016.
“This is the first program with government co-financing to vaccinate children against preventable diseases,” said Dr Soe Lwin Nyein, director of epidemiology at the central branch of the Department of Health’s Expanded Program on Immunisation.
The vaccine, pentavalent, will be used for the first time in Myanmar.
It is a combination of five vaccines to protect against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type B (the bacteria that causes meningitis and pneumonia). It will replace DTP, which protects against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.
According to the World Health Organization statistics in 2009, about 2200 out of 100,000 children under the age of five in Myanmar are infected with meningitis and severe pneumonia.
Pentavalent costs $17.5 for one vial and $1.75 for one dose, said Dr Htar Htar Lin, assistant director of the Expanded Program on Immunisation.
“The vaccines are bought from India and have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is 80 to 95 percent effective,” she said.
Children receive four doses and the ministry, which has trained health staff to administer the vaccine, is urging parents not to miss the vaccination.
“We want all children under the age of one to be vaccinated,” Dr Soe Lwin Nyein said. “It will help fulfil one of the Millennium Development Goals, which calls for the reduction in under-five mortality by two thirds by 2015.”