More children are receiving life-saving vaccinations, but significant gaps remain
More children are vaccinated in Myanmar than ever before, but significant gaps in coverage remain, and there have been outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and diphtheria.
Around 87 per cent of children in Myanmar receive the BCG vaccination against tuberculosis, but there is rapid drop-off in coverage for necessary doses of follow-up vaccines, including the 5-in-1 vaccine against multiple diseases, and the vaccines against polio and measles rubella.
This means that just over half of all children between 12 and 23 months receive full basic immunization coverage.
Eight per cent of children receive no vaccination, according to data from the Demographic and Health Survey, 2015.
Children in rural areas, children of mothers with lower educational achievement, children from poorer families and children in some states or regions are much less likely to receive their basic vaccinations. Boys are more likely to be covered than girls (58 per cent to 51 per cent).
Limited and ageing cold chain systems for vaccine supply and storage contributes to low coverage and high drop-out rates for vaccinations. Equipment, laboratories and vaccine commodities are insufficient. Poor roads and electricity and low coordination between different health systems, including government, ethnic and community-based organizations, also complicate logistics and management. In addition, limited knowledge of caregivers on the importance of immunization, and fear of side effects among the public, are also contributing factors.
Children in humanitarian disasters and conflict situations are at extra risk of missing out on vaccinations.
UNICEF supports the Government to strengthen national systems for harmonized procurement, logistics and supply-chain management to reduce stock-outs of vaccines, and to equitably deliver quality routine immunization and other vital services, especially in hard to reach areas.
We are supporting the introduction of new vaccines under Myanmar’s comprehensive Expanded Programme on Immunization Multi-Year Plan 2017–2021.
In 2017, in one of the largest public health interventions ever in the country, over 14 million children aged nine months to 15 years were reached for the first time with Japanese Encephalitis immunization campaigns.
Japanese Encephalitis has been on the increase in Myanmar. It is a potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease, with children under 15 most at risk. Around a third of survivors are left with some sort of neurological problem or physical disability, such as hearing and speech loss.
In addition, UNICEF and partners supported the Government to introduce Japanese Encephalitis vaccination into the routine immunization programme. There are plans to introduce vaccinations for Rotavirus and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the near future.
UNICEF works closely with the Government and partners to create awareness and demand for immunization, especially among segments of the population that are currently accessing less coverage.
In November 2018, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, signed a second phase agreement with Ministry of Health and Sports, UNICEF and WHO to invest US$ 60 million in Health System Strengthening.
Eighty-four townships with low immunization coverage have been prioritized under the support from GAVI to strengthen health system with cold chain infrastructure including solar system in areas of poor electricity supply, enhancing health work force capacity and creating community awareness for vaccination.
In 2018, we also supported measles vaccinations for 13,000 children between nine and 18 months in hard-to-reach areas of Kachin and Rakhine states. In response to measles outbreak in Yangon, UNICEF supported measles-rubella vaccination for approximately 550,000 children between nine months and 15 years in February 2019.