Infectious diseases under control thanks to expanded immunisation

Tuesday, 2021-01-26 15:45:20
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A baby gets vaccinated in La Pan Tan commune, Mu Cang Chai district, Yen Bai province. (Photo: tiemchungmorong.vn)
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NDO – Vietnam has brought under control several infectious diseases including wild polio, measles, rubella and diphtheria, thanks to its expanded programme on immunisation (EPI).

The EPI has always received the attention and investment of Government as it is one among several priority projects under population - healthcare target programmes for the 2016-2020 period.

According to Assoc. Prof., Dr. Duong Thi Hong, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, in 2020, Vietnam once again did not record any cases of wild polio. 2020 is also the 20th year that Vietnam has successfully maintained its polio eradication success and also the 15th year maintaining positive results on neonatal tetanus elimination.

Last year, no locale in Vietnam recorded a measles and rubella outbreak. The number of measles cases decreased sharply compared to 2019, while the number of rubella infections was low, making an important contribution to the control of congenital rubella syndrome, a disease that seriously affects the physical and development of new-borns.

In implementing the Ministry of Health's plan on vaccination against diphtheria (using the DTP and Td vaccines) and a 5-in-1 vaccination for more than 4 million people of all ages in four Central Highlands localities, up until now 500,000 have received two doses of the Td vaccine. Thanks to such efforts, the diphtheria outbreak in the region has essentially been controlled, without new cases recorded for more than a month.

During 2018-2021, in addition to Government investment, the EPI project has endeavoured to mobilise aid from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to equip itself with the most advanced dedicated refrigerator system nationwide for vaccine storage. This is a priority of the project in the context that provinces and cities nationwide will have to be more proactive in mobilising investment to pay for the cost of vaccination and purchase needles and safety boxes from local sources, starting from 2021.

In 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, especially in April, as all commune health stations nationwide had to suspend vaccination, and some localities implemented social distancing in the second and third quarters due to fear of SARS-COV-2 infection, parents did not immediately let their children get vaccinated, causing the rate of vaccination to be lower than expected while vaccinations were uneven across localities.

Against such a backdrop, the EPI project has developed plans and provided guidance on the organisation of vaccinations immediately after the social distancing order ended, while directing localities to organise additional rounds for those who had not been vaccinated.

By November 2020, there were nearly 1.4 million children fully vaccinated with eight vaccines, equivalent to 87% of the set plan and it is expected that the full immunisation rate for children under one year old in 2020 will reach the annual set target of 95%.

This year, the national EPI will step up its activities to maintain a vaccination rate in children under one year old of over 95% nationwide, while ensuring vaccination safety and COVID-19 prevention.

The project will continue to review high-risk localities, especially those that have not yet implemented the campaign during 2018-2020 to supplement MR (measles - rubella) vaccine for children in high-risk areas, aiming to achieve a high level of vaccination coverage and to be proactive in preventing outbreaks. Approximately 1 million children aged 1-5 are expected to receive this vaccine.

Also in 2021, it is expected that over 90% of districts across the country will be equipped with a new refrigerator system, ensuring sufficient capacity and heighten the quality of vaccine preservation.