New Delhi: With about 5 lakh children dying
every year from vaccine-preventable diseases in South-East
Asia, a renewed commitment to increase and sustain the
immunisation coverage was today made by health ministers and
experts from 11 member states of the region.
"About 10 million children still do not receive the
third dose of DTP vaccine in the region and millions of
children in the region have no access to vaccines that are
routinely given to children in the industrialised world,"
WHO`s Regional Director for South-East Asia Samlee
Plianbangchang said here.
"Access to safe and effective vaccines is a basic right
of all children," he said at a high-level meeting attended by
ministers and experts from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka,
Maldives, Myanmar and Nepal, besides India.
The World Health Organisation has declared 2012 as the
Year of Intensification for Routine Immunisation in the South
East Asia Region.
Asserting that the task of achieving 100 percent
immunisation coverage is "enormous", Union Health Minister
Ghulam Nabi Azad said several new initiatives have helped
India achieve improved coverage and quality of immunisation.
"India strongly believes that vaccination is the most
cost effective public health invention as it provides direct
and effective protection against preventable morbidity and
mortality. Therefore, we remain committed to increasing and
sustaining quality immunisation coverage," Azad said.
Calling for a political commitment to achieve the set
goals of immunisation to help save children, experts said that
despite achievements in routine immunisation in the region,
the coverage is not uniform between countries and within
different geographical areas in the same country.
Recognised as one of the most cost-effective and powerful
public health interventions, immunisation is critical to
achieving Millennium Development Goal 4 -- reduction of deaths
of children under the age of five, the ministers felt.
Basic vaccines in routine immunisation consist of four
vaccines against six diseases namely BCG (vaccine against
childhood tuberculosis), DTP (combined vaccine against
diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus), OPV (vaccine against
polio) and measles vaccines.
It was stated at the meeting that reaching high-risk
communities and those in hard-to-reach areas is one of the
challenges to routine immunisation in the region.
Inadequate resource allocation and lack of trained health
workforce add up to the low coverage, while inadequate vaccine
delivery mechanisms and a weak cold chain infrastructure also
posed a big challenge to effective immunisation coverage.
Even though in 2005, the World Health Assembly endorsed
the Global Immunisation Vision and Strategies (GIVS), with
objective to achieve 90 per cent immunisation coverage
nationally and 80 per cent coverage in all districts, only
seven countries in WHO`s South-East Asia region had reached
the national coverage of 90 per cent in 2010.
"Though these countries have reached the national
coverage of 90 per cent, there are still districts with
coverage below 80 per cent." WHO is urging countries in
South-East Asia to strengthen their regulatory bodies.
Countries need to invest in vaccines, technologies and train
health workers to deliver life saving vaccines, said a WHO