New Delhi: With about 5 lakh children dyingevery year from vaccine-preventable diseases in South-EastAsia, a renewed commitment to increase and sustain theimmunisation coverage was today made by health ministers andexperts from 11 member states of the region. "About 10 million children still do not receive thethird dose of DTP vaccine in the region and millions ofchildren in the region have no access to vaccines that areroutinely given to children in the industrialised world,"WHO`s Regional Director for South-East Asia SamleePlianbangchang said here.
Calling for a political commitment to achieve the setgoals of immunisation to help save children, experts said thatdespite achievements in routine immunisation in the region,the coverage is not uniform between countries and withindifferent geographical areas in the same country. Recognised as one of the most cost-effective and powerfulpublic health interventions, immunisation is critical toachieving Millennium Development Goal 4 -- reduction of deathsof children under the age of five, the ministers felt. Basic vaccines in routine immunisation consist of fourvaccines against six diseases namely BCG (vaccine againstchildhood tuberculosis), DTP (combined vaccine againstdiphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus), OPV (vaccine againstpolio) and measles vaccines.
It was stated at the meeting that reaching high-riskcommunities and those in hard-to-reach areas is one of thechallenges to routine immunisation in the region. Inadequate resource allocation and lack of trained healthworkforce add up to the low coverage, while inadequate vaccinedelivery mechanisms and a weak cold chain infrastructure alsoposed a big challenge to effective immunisation coverage. Even though in 2005, the World Health Assembly endorsedthe Global Immunisation Vision and Strategies (GIVS), withobjective to achieve 90 per cent immunisation coveragenationally and 80 per cent coverage in all districts, onlyseven countries in WHO`s South-East Asia region had reachedthe national coverage of 90 per cent in 2010. "Though these countries have reached the nationalcoverage of 90 per cent, there are still districts withcoverage below 80 per cent." WHO is urging countries inSouth-East Asia to strengthen their regulatory bodies.Countries need to invest in vaccines, technologies and trainhealth workers to deliver life saving vaccines, said a WHOrelease. PTI
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