Half-a-million children in Myanmar will receive the pentavalent vaccine with GAVI support. Copyright: GAVI Alliance 2012/Phil Davey
Nay Pyi Taw – Over half–million children across Myanmar will be protected against five major childhood diseases in the next six a months thanks to the introduction of the five-in-one pentavalent vaccine with support from the GAVI Alliance.
The first children were vaccinated on Tuesday at a special launch ceremony in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw. In the first six months following the introduction, three separate shots of pentavalent vaccine will protect 600,000 children from five potentially fatal diseases – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B (hepB), and Haemophilus influenzae type b.
GAVI’s multi-year support will ensure Myanmar is able to make the vaccine available to all children under one year of age across the country.
GAVI Board Chair Dagfinn Høybråten joined Union Minister of Health, Prof. Dr. Pe Thet Khin and World Health Organization country representative Dr. Herbert Tennakoon at the launch event held to mark the historic occasion.
“Children in Myanmar will receive the best protection available against five potentially deadly diseases,” said Dagfinn Høybråten. “This is a very exciting time to be in Myanmar as it emerges from decades of social and political isolation and the GAVI Alliance is committed to supporting the children of Myanmar to give them the best possible chance of growing up to lead healthy and productive lives.”
Children in Myanmar will receive the best protection available against five potentially deadly diseases
Dagfinn Høybråten, GAVI Board Chair
Speaking at the launch, Minister for Health His Excellency Dr. Phe Thet Khin said the new vaccine would promote the social and economic welfare of the country, by “heightening the development of rural areas thereby the reduction of poverty as the priority.”
Measles second dose
At the same time as rolling out pentavalent vaccine, Myanmar is also administering measles second dose vaccine, with initial plans to reach 1.1 million children over the next year.
Trained vaccinators operating in urban and rural health centres will administer the vaccines as part of the country’s routine immunisation schedule.
“The Government of Myanmar has shown leadership and continues to implement intensification activities to increase immunisation coverage throughout the country to protect all children regardless of where they live. Introducing these new vaccines will help accelerate progress to achieve the goal of protecting more children,’ said Dr H.S.B. Tennakoon, WHO Representative for Myanmar.
GAVI support has helped ensure Myanmar is ready to introduce pentavalent and measles second dose vaccines simultaneously.
Through a grant to aid the introductions, Myanmar’s cold chain system is being upgraded to help health officials ensure the vaccines remain at the correct temperature, necessary to guarantee their effectiveness.
The grant will also help mothers and medical professionals keep track of which children have been vaccinated by funding the design and printing of vaccination record cards. In turn, these vaccination record cards will contribute to strengthened vaccine surveillance work in Myanmar to help inform future Ministry of Health decisions on vaccines.
Health system strengthening
GAVI has supported children in Myanmar since 2002 with funding for hepatitis B vaccine and programmes to strengthen health systems.
In August, an Asian Development Bank report highlighted Myanmar’s economic potential to become one of the “next rising stars of Asia” while stressing that greater investment in the development of human capital through health and education was essential if this is to happen.