Government and partners launch campaign to improve immunization coverage to save lives of children

08 May 2023
A young child being vaccinated against measles.
Noreen Chambers
A young child kicking off the national Supplementary Immunisation Activity in Port Moresby.

PORT Moresby, 8 May 2023 – The National Government is spearheading a campaign to raise the country’s immunization coverage rate to save lives of children.

A national launch was held today in Port Moresby to kick-start the campaign – the Supplementary Immunization Activity on Measles-Rubella, Polio and Vitamin A.

The Supplementary Immunization Activity (SIA) on Measles-Rubella, Polio and Vitamin A, will be conducted by the National Department of Health with support from UNICEF, WHO and Gavi and will go for five weeks.

Every year, thousands of babies are born in Papua New Guinea and sadly many of these babies die before they reach their fifth birthday. One of the causes is due to diseases that are preventable through immunization.  These includes measles, polio, whooping cough and tetanus.

Secretary for the National Department of Health Dr Osborne Liko, who stood in for the Health Minister Dr Lino Tom, launched the event.

Dr Liko said despite immunization services being provided for free at all government-run health facilities throughout the country, many children are still not being brought for immunization which is unacceptable.  

Currently, he said PNG’s immunization coverage rate stands below 50 percent, with some provinces having even as low as 25 per which is a great concern.

About 30 – 40 per cent of hospitalization and death in the country among children is due to illnesses such as measles, meningitis, tetanus, whooping cough, along with pneumonia. These children can be protected by full and complete immunization.

Dr Liko said SIA is an expensive exercise but it has to be conducted to save the lives of the children who are the future of this country.

Secretary Dr Liko, also thanked UNICEF, WHO, and all the other partners of the Government in this campaign such as Gavi, governments of Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The objectives of the Measles-Rubella immunization include:

  • Vaccinating all children aged 6 – 59 months with one dose of MR vaccine, irrespective of their previous vaccination status. A total of 1.2 million children (12.5 per cent of total population)
  • Vaccinating all children aged 0 to 59 months with one dose of b)PV, irrespective of their previous vaccination status. A total of 1.3 million children (14.5 per cent of total population)
  • Provide Vitamin A supplementation to all children aged 6 to 59 months
  • Strengthen Routine Immunization and follow Routine Immunization-focus campaign in selected districts aiming at catching up large number of zero dose children.

Supplementary Immunization Activities, also referred to as mass-immunization campaign is an effective strategy for delivering vaccination to children who have missed out due to varying reasons such as coming from hard-to-reach areas, have never been taken for immunization or, zero dose and underserved groups and communities or to older susceptible individuals who are not among the age groups targeted by the routine Expanded Programme Immunization (EPI) services.

As such, SIA have the effect of rapidly increasing population immunity by reducing the susceptible individuals in the population, which can result in protective “herd” immunity.’’

Other benefits include building national capacity, reducing inequity of service delivery, advocating for Routine Immunization, improving immunization practices and providing further published health benefits through integration of other public health interventions with the SIA.

“All children in PNG have the right to a bright and healthy future. We salute the efforts of the National Department of Health and partners to bring renewed energy to accelerate catch up and help prevent future outbreaks. The Polio outbreak in 2018 has shown us that collective and concerted actions work. We must exercise that same vigor for children’s immunization to make sure that no child in PNG gets left behind,” said UNICEF Representative Dr. Claudes Kamenga

WHO Country Representative Dr Sevil Huseynova said, this program ensures, that all children are up to date with immunization, that they may have missed in the last 3 years of the pandemic when routine immunization services were disrupted.

“We encourage all parents to bring their children in for vaccination. Looking after our children and their health is our core business and vaccination is the best and most effective ways to do this”.

The campaign will go for five weeks and will cover all the 22 provinces, including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Media contacts

Noreen Chambers
Communication Specialist
UNICEF
Tel: +675 321 3000

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 its work for children in Papua New Guinea, visit https://www.unicef.org/png/ 

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