Bangladesh is going to introduce pneumococcal vaccine in its routine vaccination programme to prevent acute respiratory infections like pneumonia, which is one of the main reasons behind the death of babies in the country.
Health minister A F M Ruhal Haque made the announcement on Sunday at a press briefing, marking Bangladesh’s recent achievement of the ‘GAVI Best Performance Award’ for routine vaccination coverage.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), that provides almost half of the country’s annual need of $45 million for vaccination, awarded Bangladesh for the second time for its best routine vaccination coverage among the 74 partner countries.
The minister received the award on Dec 6 in Tanzania during the meeting of the GAVI partners.
He credited the concerted efforts of all from ‘the highest to the grass root levels’ for the success, but cautioned about the challenges of reaching those in the city slums and far-flung areas.
He said GAVI had extended its support for introducing pneumococcal vaccine and hoped that they would be able to launch it in the first quarter of 2013.
Different organisations of child specialists have long been demanding the vaccine against pneumonia that accounts for one-fifth of the total number of deaths of children under the age of five.
They argue that it has the potential to frustrate Bangladesh’s efforts to achieve MDG-4 target, that is to bring down the mortality rate of children under the age of five to 48 per 1,000 live births by 2015 from the current level of 53.
The minister said apart from pneumococcal vaccine, they had also plans to introduce vaccine against rota virus and cervical cancer, ‘both are public health problems’.
The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) says 80.2 percent children were fully vaccinated, completed doses as per schedule before celebrating first birth anniversary, in 2011.
“The rate would be more than 95 percent, if we count all who even received a single dose,” EPI Line Director Dr Syed Abu Jafar Md. Musa said.
He said they had worked out strategies to increase the full vaccination rate to 90 percent by 2016.
“We have identified 13 districts where the coverage is below the national average. We are intensifying our efforts with manpower and training,” he said.
Aiming to reduce child deaths from the vaccine-preventable diseases, the government started the EPI in 1979 with six vaccines against infectious diseases – tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles.
In recent years, Hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) and rubella vaccines had been added to the system.
The Senior Secretary for Health Md Humayun Kabir said, apart from GAVI and WHO recommendations, they consider the advice of their technical committees before initiating any new vaccine in the programme.
“We consider two factors here. Whether we need it and whether we have the capacity to avail it,” he said.
Apart from round the year routine immunisation programmes, the government also conducts special campaigns for polio vaccines twice a year.
Bangladesh was also given the GAVI award in 2009 for outstanding vaccination coverage.