‘Pacific Islands are a very challenging place to roll out vaccines’ – UNICEF

Immunisation in the Pacific is more sustainable with governments taking on a vaccine programme, UNICEF Aotearoa says.

Vaccines for pneumococcal disease, rotavirus and HPV (human papillomavirus) have been added to national essential immunisation programs in nine countries.

UNICEF Aotearoa spokesperson Frances Wells said it is a significant milestone.

“I think the challenges in the past have been that Pacific Island health systems are under resourced,” she said.

“Also, I would say that the Pacific Islands are a very challenging place to roll out vaccines.

“So we have a large number of islands across a broad geographic area. And it’s logistically challenging to get vaccines to reach every child.”

The program, which is now being taken on by Pacific governments, has been implemented by UNICEF, in collaboration with the ministries of health and funding from Rotary since 2020.

Wells said pneumonia and diarrhea are among the top three causes of death in Pacific Island children, particularly those under the age of five – and the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.

“Immunisation is one of the most cost effective health interventions,” she said.

“The Rotary give every child a future partnership – so the funds raised by rotary in Australia and New Zealand are providing the vaccines for the first few years of the program.

“But now that the Pacific Island governments are adding these vaccines to their national essential programs, for immunization, this means that it’s a sustainable programme.”

She said the vaccines are already being rolled out.

“We’re seeing families bring their children along and be vaccinated; and we know these children will have a much better chance at reaching their fifth, and their tenth, and their 15th birthdays.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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