Pentavalent vaccine launched in Timor-Leste
DILI, 25 October 2012 - Health Minister Dr. Sergio Lobo today launched the use of the pentavalent vaccine in Timor-Leste in a ceremony held in the capital Dili as part of the country’s drive to improve protection of children against vaccine-preventable diseases.
The launch of the new pentavalent vaccine was led by Health Minister Dr. Sergio Lobo, UNICEF Country Representative Hongwei Gao and GAVI Senior Country Officer Jacqueline Tong. President Taur Matan Ruak was represented by Rafael Pereira Gonçalves Secretary of State under the Ministry of Agriculture.
The new pentavalent vaccine protects children against five major childhood diseases – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenzae type b or Hib. Hib is associated with a number of severe childhood diseases including pneumonia, infection of the brain membrane (meningitis), sepsis, serious infections affecting the body’s natural immune system, and infections of other internal organs.
“In 2011 alone, our 6 tertiary hospitals in Timor-Leste reported 1,830 cases of pneumonia and 51 cases of meningitis,” Health Minister Sergio Lobo said. “This new pentavalent vaccine will be part of our routine immunization and I expect more Timorese children to be protected from these diseases that kill. Worldwide, Hib accounts for roughly half of the meningitis cases in the age group of 6 months to 2 years. Hib is also estimated to be responsible for 20% of pneumonia cases in this age group.”
The Ministry of Health, with technical support from UNICEF and WHO, is able to access the pentavalent vaccine thanks to financial support from the GAVI Alliance. Under GAVI’s co-financing arrangement with the Timor-Leste Government, the country makes a financial contribution for every dose of vaccine and will eventually fully finance the costs of vaccines and related injection safety equipment.
“With GAVI support for pentavalent vaccine, Timor-Leste has the opportunity to vaccinate its children against five major killer diseases in this new vaccine and significantly improve the health of communities across the country,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance who sent the message from Geneva.
“UNICEF will continue to support the Ministry of Health in strengthening the immunization program in Timor-Leste,” UNICEF Country Representative Hongwei Gao stated. “We are committed to provide technical and funding support to help ensure that Timorese children’s lives are protected and saved from childhood illnesses.“
The Ministry of Health leads the Expanded Programme on Immunization Working Group to improve immunization. Members of the Working Group include UNICEF, WHO, Immunization Proteje Labarik, USAID, Medicos Dos Mundo, ChildFund, Clinca Café Timor, World Vision, National Institute of Health and many other organizations.
For more information, please contact:
Caetano Gusmao, Immunization Programme Officer, Ministry of Health (Tetum),
Mary Ann Maglipon, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Timor-Leste (English)