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New opportunities to strengthen immunization programme in Pacific Island countries

© UNICEF Pacific/2006/Pirozzi
MCH unit working at Erakor Bridge. UNICEF provides the vaccines and other medical equipment including the scales.

NADI, 22 November, 2013 –Participants at the Eighth Pacific Immunization Programme Strengthening (PIPS) workshop, supported the adaptation of the Global Vaccine Action Plan to the Pacific region in order to improve immunization coverage. Based on this regional framework, Pacific countries will set new immunization goals and targets, such as the introduction of new vaccines and measles elimination, and give new directions for strengthening national immunization programmes in the region.

Immunization success in the Pacific

All countries in the Pacific island countries have remained polio-free since 2000, when the Western Pacific Region was certified as Polio-free . Local transmission of measles might have been interrupted and hepatitis B infection among children has been substantially reduced. This is all due to the success of immunization programmes that despite challenges have saved thousands of lives of Pacific children.

Pacific island countries and areas have been quick to assess needs and introduce new and under-utilized vaccines. All Pacific island countries have introduced HiB vaccine. Despite the costs, several countries have included or are considering one or more of the newer vaccines such as pneumococcal conjugate, rotavirus, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines into their National Immunization Programmes. These new vaccines will result in substantial health benefits in the future.

Dr Diorditsa Sergey, Team Leader, Expanded Programme on Immunization, for the Western Pacific, said, "Sustaining and building on these successes requires even greater efforts. Failure to sustain high routine immunization coverage will result in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks and child deaths." 

Challenges to continued immunization improvement in the Pacific

More efforts are needed to strengthen and maintain immunization supply chain, including for the new and underused vaccine introduction. Immediate actions are required to improve immunization data quality through surveillance , programme monitoring and reporting.

Strategies to strengthen Pacific immunization programmes

These key accomplishments and challenges to immunization programmes are at the heart of discussions during the Eighth Pacific Immunization Programme Strengthening (PIPS) workshop held in Nadi, Fiji from 18-22 November. 

During the workshop, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Pacific Representative, Dr. Karen Allen said “While there are accomplishments, it is also important to ensure that challenges are addressed by all national immunization programmes in the Pacific. Immunization is one of the most cost-effective interventions that make substantial contributions to reducing childhood mortality, morbidity and sick care costs. Through the PIPS, Pacific Islands have been strengthened to manage immunization programmes with more confidence and tenacity. The knowledge and technology transfer in vaccine management, as well as the cold chain equipment supplies will be the basis of future activities and cooperation among the island countries.”

The PIPS initiative was established in 2004 as a regional mechanism to coordinate and mobilize technical and financial support to national immunization programmes in the PICs. PIPS workshops aim to provide opportunities to build capacity, share best practices, establish practical solutions to overcome obstacles and further strengthen partnerships. 

The five-day Pacific Immunization Programme Strengthening Workshop, which ended today included 28 participants from 17 countries and areas of Pacific Island Countries. 

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and our work in the Pacific visit: http://www.unicefpacific.org

About WHO

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. In the 21st century, health is a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defence against transnational threats. www.wpro.who.int/southpacific

About The Pacific Immunization Programme Stranegthening (PIPS)

The PIPS initiative was established in 2004 as a regional mechanism to coordinate and mobilize technical and financial support to national immunization programmes in the PICs. PIPS workshops aim to provide opportunities to build capacity, share best practices, establish practical solutions to overcome obstacles and further strengthen partnerships. The five-day Pacific Immunisation Programme Strengthening Workshop, which runs from 18 - 22 November, is jointly organized by World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF and features representatives from Pacific Island ministries of health and regional and international health experts.The workshop also has representatives from other donor agencies, which include the Australian Government, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community , the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rotary International District 2650. 

For more information, please contact Saula Volavola (WHO) (679) 3304 600 or volavolas@wpro.who.int, or Donna Hoerder, (UNICEF) on (679) 3236 100 or dhoerder@unicef.org

 

 
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