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European Immunization Week starts off in Turkmenistan with SMS messages on immunization

© UNICEF Turkmenistan / 2008

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 22 April 2008

About 500,000 MTS mobile phone users in Turkmenistan received SMS messages highlighting the importance of immunization in saving children’s lives and in improving the health of the nation. The SMS messaging service was provided free of charge by MTS, one of the most widely used mobile phone service providers in the country.

SMS messaging is one the many activities that the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan has planned for the European Immunization Week. Other activities include distribution of posters and brochures with important messages on immunization, poster and essay writing contest and sports events in secondary schools and universities, and distribution of growth monitoring charts specially designed to include immunisation messages and immunisation schedule for infants and young children.  The activities are supported by UNICEF, WHO and other national and international agencies. This is the second year that Turkmenistan is participating in the weeklong activities.

“Immunoprophylaxis is the most effective and one of the most important components of the preventive healthcare system,” said Deputy Minister of health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan and Head of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Services, Dr. Annamurad Orazov in an interview published in the Neutral Turkmenistan national newspaper.

Turkmenistan has one of the highest immunization coverage rates in Central Asia. A 99 per cent immunization coverage rate has been achieved for tuberculosis, diphtheria and measles while a 98 per cent coverage rate has been achieved for polio, and hepatitis B. Since 2001 the Government of Turkmenistan has been paying for the vaccines and other supplies needed for EPI. Since 2002, Turkmenistan has been certified polio-free. In 2002 the Government introduced Hepatitis B into the Programme. 

Such high coverage rate could be attributed to the country’s well-established Expanded Programme on Immunization or EPI. There are around 1800 vaccination posts nationwide with all of them being part of public health facilities. There are now 68 cold storage facilities in place for storing vaccines. Health centres are also equipped with computers, which contain databases that help monitor vaccine supplies and needs.

In November of 2007, a two-week immunization campaign against measles and rubella (MR) was carried out for the first time in the country covering about 3 million children and women. Vaccination against rubella is the only cost effective way of preventing rubella infection, which often causes blindness, deafness and mental retardation.
The Government continues to procure all EPI vaccines through UNICEF, fully funding its routine immunisation component. Following a joint UNICEF-WHO assessment of the capacity of the country’s cold chain, the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry is upgrading the infrastructure in 2008 and improving the capacity of immunisation professionals in vaccine procurement, storage and management. This year the State Sanitary-Epidemiological Service is planning to set up training centres in all of the country’s five provinces to ensure that frontline health workers are regularly trained on safe delivery of immunization services that comply with international standards on immunization.

The impact of the weeklong awareness-raising campaign will be measured through pre- and post-evaluation surveys among approximately 700 primary healthcare personnel and 4,000 parents of children under five in all regions and in the capital city of Ashgabat. The result of the study will be used to increase effectiveness of future immunization interventions and trace the dynamics of the campaign throughout the years.

For more information please contact:
Ayadil Saparbekov
UNICEF Health and Nutrition Officer

Gulyalek Soltanova
UNICEF Communication Officer
Phone: +99312 425681/82/86/86
Fax: +99312 420830





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