Immunisation and Pentavalent Vaccine
Immunisation is one of the most important preventive health actions in children’s lives, as it provides protection against the most dangerous childhood diseases. Achieving immunisation through administration of vaccines to boys and girls is a priority, because if they have not been vaccinated they are at major risk of contracting diseases such as measles, whooping cough and others, which may be fatal in some cases and may lead to long-term debilitating effects on survivors.
The Dominican Ministry of Health and Social Assistance (SESPAS) Extended Immunisation Programme (PAI) was established in 1974 and has been expanding to the point where it currently has 980 permanent vaccination centres in every municipality in the country.
The PAI’s efforts have met the target of 80% coverage, which was reached in 1995, for all vaccines. The Dominican Republic also achieved certification as a polio-free country in 1994, together with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Despite these advances, the challenge remains to achieve universal vaccination coverage for at least 95% of children.
The PAI has a technical advice committee made up of high-level Dominican professionals and an inter-agency committee comprising JICA, USAID, PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, Project Hope, Plan International, the World Bank and other international development agencies.
Since 2001, through a five-year agreement between UNICEF and the Japanese government, the pentavalent vaccine has been successfully incorporated into the country’s vaccination programme. A total of one million children under the age of one have benefited since the project was launched.
The pentavalent vaccine is a combination of five vaccines in one: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (the bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis). This project contributed to increasing immunisation coverage for 2005, according to data from PAI, and reached a total of 83.3% of children in the country under the age of one. It has also led to a reduction in cases of immuno-preventive illnesses, especially meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenza type b.
According to a Study on the Impact of the Pentavalent Vaccine (only in Spanish), 414 cases of bacterial meningitis were recorded in 1999, more than half of which were caused by the Hib bacteria. Some 90% of the boys and girls affected were under one year of age with an average mortality rate of 34%, while survivors suffer from deafness and paralysis.
For its part, the PAI records that immunisation coverage for children under the age of one increased during the period 2000-2005 in Tuberculosis or BCG (90.2 % to 97.6 %), measles (88.0% a 100%) and Hepatitis B or HEPB-3 (68% to 83.3 %), Diphtheria, Whooping Cough and Tetanus or DPT-3 (78% to 83.3%) and anti-polio (74.3% to 82.6%).
Immunisation Programme – PAI
The process of introducing the pentavalent vaccine has contributed to strengthening the Extended Immunisation Programme, with evidence that of the country’s 980 vaccination centres, 87% are adequately equipped and completely operative, based on the programme accreditation criteria. It has also contributed to improving the information system and increased communities’ acceptance and use of the permanent vaccination centres.
As well as providing the funding, UNICEF has been supporting the process of strengthening of the programme at local and central levels. It is worth highlighting the achievement of placing immunisation on the Dominican Government’s agenda and in the national budget, which represents a major step towards the sustainability of the Extended Immunisation
Vaccination week of the Americas