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Pentavalent vaccines will be arriving in Nepal shortly

Kathmandu, 12 May 2010:  UNICEF Nepal's attention has been drawn by media reports regarding the scarcity of Pentavalent vaccines in the country, and the role played by the Government of Nepal and UNICEF in the supply of these vaccines.

UNICEF, which has been working in Nepal along with the Government of Nepal for over four decades to help children survive and thrive, is concerned and would like to provide assurance that steps are being taken to ensure the resumption of the vaccine supply chain so that routine immunisation for children in Nepal will be able to continue as soon as possible.

Through this media release UNICEF would like to present the facts regarding the chain of events that led to the shortfall in the supply of the Pentavalent vaccines and also clarify the current status of procurement.

Pentavalent vaccine, which was introduced in Nepal from April 2009, is a new vaccine that protects children against five diseases.  Aside from the regular protection against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Whooping Cough, the vaccine also protects children from Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza.

The problem arose when the vaccines consigned for Nepal were temporarily suspended by the World Health Organisation on March 12 (Joint WHO/UNICEF Statement 12th March 2010) following complaints received from the field. Proactive measures to procure replacement vaccines were taken immediately by the Government of Nepal and UNICEF to ensure smooth continuation of routine immunisation activities.

Based on the ensuing discussion, UNICEF with the Government facilitated an immediate shipment of 131,600 vials of Pentavalent vaccine, enough to last a month, within a record time of two weeks. It should be understood that manufacture of vaccine takes time and there are only a handful of companies prequalified by WHO from whom vaccines are procured for global supply.  Orders are placed months in advance and it is difficult to respond to such ad hoc needs.

Subsequently, on April 26, WHO asked for a recall and destruction of all lots of Pentavalent vaccines from the assigned firm as a precautionary measure. About 24 million doses of Pentavalent vaccine had to be recalled globally, including around 1 million doses in Nepal.   This has impacted vaccinations in seven countries, including Nepal, and has laid additional burden of orders on the other companies eligible to provide supplies.

Due to the repeated follow up and daily communications by UNICEF, the provision of new vaccines for Nepal was given top priority by Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI),the principal funder of the vaccine, as well as the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen. GAVI waived its regular time-consuming administrative processes of verification and destruction of the suspended vaccine and expedited the transfer of additional funds to the UNICEF Supply Division in Copenhagen for the immediate procurement of the vaccine.

The Supply Division in Copenhagen placed Nepal at the top of its priority list and is dispatching a consignment of 750,000 doses of Pentavalent vaccine on May 17, which should reach the country by the end of May to provide continuity of the immunisation sessions.

UNICEF urges all parents of children who have missed the last dose of the Pentavalent vaccine to take their children to the immunisation session following the arrival of the vaccines. It also urges all media outlets to spread the word so that all parents and guardians are assured about the continuance of regular immunisations in June.

For more information:

John Brittain, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Nepal -  Ph: 977 1 5523200 ext 1182; Cell: 977 98510 54139
Dr. Sudhir Khanal, Child Health Specialist, Ph: 977 1 5523200 ext 1109



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