Liberia’s immunization programme gets a 15-generator boost from UNICEF and GAVI [4 June 2014]
New equipment will help Government expand vaccine coverage nationwide
MONROVIA, Liberia 4 June 2014 – At a ceremony today at JFK Memorial Hospital, UNICEF officially handed over 15 generators to the Government of Liberia to help ensure all children are immunized with vaccines that have been properly and safely stored. Procured with funds from the GAVI Alliance, the generators are intended to bolster the capacity of health facilities in 13 counties to store vaccines at the proper temperatures. The donation comes at a time when Liberia is planning to add at least two new vaccines to its national immunization schedule.
“The Government of Liberia is working toward the day when no Liberian child will die of a vaccine-preventable illness,” said Deputy Minister for Administration Matthew Flomo, who accepted the generators on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. “These generators put us one step closer to realizing that dream by ensuring we can keep our vaccines safe and effective.”
With support from UNICEF and other partners, the Government of Liberia guarantees all children under one year of age access to six free vaccines through its Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). These vaccines, which are imported into Liberia by UNICEF on behalf of the Government, protect against common childhood diseases like pneumonia, measles and polio.
Over the next nine months, Liberia intends to add the rotavirus vaccine and the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to its EPI schedule, and to pilot the HPV vaccine in Bong and Nimba Counties. In a country that relies exclusively on generators for reliable electricity, this expansion will take a heavy toll on existing power sources at vaccine storage facilities. The 15 new generators procured and donated by UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance are intended to lessen this burden. “Ensuring all children are immunized is one way Liberia can continue to reduce its under five mortality rate,” said UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett. “But without a functioning cold chain to keep those vaccines at the right temperatures, Liberia’s immunization programme will never reach its full potential.”
Both Deputy Minister Flomo and Mr. Yett stressed the importance of maintenance of the generators to ensuring that the more than 155,000 Liberian children under one year of age have access to effective vaccines. This is especially urgent when one considers that, in Liberia, approximately one quarter of deaths of children under five are due to the vaccine-preventable illnesses of measles and pneumonia. While lack of awareness of EPI and difficulty accessing EPI services in remote areas are two key reasons for this mortality rate, an over-reliance on centralized vaccine stores may also play a role.
Recognizing that county-level facilities face challenges to keeping sufficient quantities of vaccines stocked, UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance decided to provide four 100 kva generators to facilities in Bong and Grand Gedeh Counties (two to each county), which will serve as regional vaccine storage sites. By positioning larger quantities of EPI vaccines in these counties, the Government can drastically cut down the time needed to restock vaccine stores in counties located far from Monrovia, through which all restock requests are currently processed.
One 100 kva generator was also given to the central EPI office in Monrovia to support the addition of the new vaccines in late 2014 and early 2015. The remaining 10 counties each received one 20 kva generator. Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties did not receive any generators as the vaccine storage facilities in these counties are kept cold using previously provided equipment.
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Carolyn Kindelan, Communications Officer
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