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Myanmar Launches New Vaccine to Combine Attack on Major Childhood Illnesses

A JOINT WHO-UNICEF MEDIA RELEASE

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Nay Pyi Taw, 6 November 2012: Myanmar’s Ministry of Health today officially introduced a new vaccine to protect children against five potentially life-threatening diseases.  Introduction of the Penta valent vaccine marks a milestone in Myanmar’s child immunization. It was announced in a ceremony hosted by the Ministry of Health with WHO and UNICEF.

The introduction of the new vaccine also records an important stride in terms of Myanmar Government’s commitment to combat vaccine preventable diseases through co-financing of the vaccines to the amount of US$ 5 million over the next 5 years.

In his inaugural the Minister of Health H. E. Dr. Phe Thet Khin said, “Among so many kinds of pathogens causing acute respiratory tract infection which is one of the major killing diseases for children, Haemophilus Influenzae type b is prioritized by National Committee for Immunization Practices (NCIP) to be introduced as the new vaccine for the country. Hib containing Pentavalent vaccine will be introduced in routine immunization programme by co-financing mechanism.”

By combining Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus,  Hepatitis B and Hib vaccines, Penta valent helps prevent five infections more effectively: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza (type b) among children under five years of age. The last vaccine is an important addition to strengthen routine immunization and to improve child health. Children of Myanmar would now be protected against by five antigens with a single shot during routine immunization.

This will not only have a positive impact on child health, but would also save families the costs for health care; also save time and labour of health workers that can contribute to more effective and systematic management of the Myanmar immunization programme.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) remains a leading cause of childhood bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, and can cause other serious infections for which children aged between 4 to 18 months are most at risk. It is important to immunize children and prevent disease as early as possible.  Incidence of the disease can be significantly reduced through including HIb vaccine in routine immunization.

WHO Representative Dr. Herbert Tennakoon said, “Myanmar joins the list of 179 countries where Haemophilus influenzae type b has become part of national immunization schedules, this vaccine has saved millions of lives, and it has proven to be a very safe and highly effective vaccine in preventing Hib disease.”

“In Myanmar, Pneumonia and Meningitis account for 35 percent  of  under-five deaths;  WHO estimates that Hib diseases alone causes around 96,000 cases and around 3000 deaths annually in Myanmar,” said Dr Tennakoon.

Penta valent vaccine is made available to the children of Myanmar with the support of GAVI Alliance, a Geneva-based public-private partnership that helps improve health in the world’s poorest countries. The introduction of new vaccine is through the partnership between the Government of Myanmar, WHO, UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance and other partners and civil society.

UNICEF Chief of Young Child Survival and Development, Dr. Marinus Gotink said, “In UNICEF we attach highest importance to reduce inequity and do consider provision of immunizations as one of the most equitable health interventions.”

“UNICEF is proud to be associated with the GAVI support to Myanmar children and we look forward to make this partnership even better,” said Dr Marinus.

Earlier Myanmar launched 2012 as year of Intensification of Routine Immunization to combat the vaccine preventable diseases and reach every child with life-saving vaccines.

For more information, please contact:

Zafrin Chowdhury, Chief of Communication and Information Section, UNICEF Myanmar & Sandar Linn, Communication Officer, UNICEF Myanmar, +95-1-375527-32 (Ext: 1439), slinn@unicef.org


 

 
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