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Reaching every child in the Pacific with vaccines vital to save lives

Teresa Kaputa, 23, holding her 5-month-old daughter Mererin, 5, while nurse Naama Beteru, 28, of Temwaiku clinic in South Tarawa, Kiribati gives the baby a immunisation shot. The clinic is supported by UNICEF.

25 April 2018, Suva - Vaccines keep children alive and healthy by protecting them against disease. Yet in 2016, an estimated 1.4 million children under five died globally from vaccine-preventable diseases, including 1,700 children under five in the Pacific.

UNICEF works with governments in 14 Pacific Island countries to help ensure children receive vaccines to protect against preventable illnesses.

“This week is an important reminder of the role vaccination plays in protecting children against illness,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative Sheldon Yett.

“UNICEF and its partners are working to ensure that the lives of all children are protected. But, if vaccination is not prioritized, some of the most marginalized children will miss out on their right to benefit from immunization, which could mean the difference between life and death,” he added.

Vaccinations are one of the most cost-effective health interventions to protect children from preventable diseases. Across the Pacific Island countries, immunization coverage and progress varies. All countries have maintained polio-free status since 2000 and the number of measles outbreaks in the region has steadily decreased. Maternal and neonatal tetanus has been eliminated and hepatitis B infection among children has reduced.

One in four child deaths under five years in the Pacific are due to diarrhoea and pneumonia. UNICEF is collaborating with governments across the region to introduce vaccines to prevent these diseases. 

Over the past few years, routine vaccine coverage has increased in many countries in the Pacific to meet the 90 per cent global target for national immunization coverage, with the exception of Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu. There is an average of 87.1 per cent regional vaccination coverage, however a significant number of children are still missed and do not receive the recommended number of vaccine doses.

“Despite the challenges of reaching every child in the Pacific, vaccines are protecting more children than ever before. Behind every child who receives their vaccines, lies the hard work of health workers who go from village-to-village to vaccinate children, often travelling over rough terrain, and across vast seas,” said Sheldon Yett.

In the Pacific, UNICEF is also supporting the Vaccine Independence Initiative, which is a financing mechanism to ensure the availability of vaccines as well as improving the cold chain so that vaccines can reach those children who need them while maintaining the quality to be effective.

Further information:

The data is based on WHO/UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (2016 revision). Click here for more information.

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About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. 

Follow UNICEF Pacific on http://www.unicefpacific.org/ Twitter and Facebook

For more information, please contact:

Cate Heinrich, Chief of Communication, +679 9925606, cheinrich@unicef.org

 

 
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