Vaccines to prevent children from cervical cancer, pneumonia, and rotavirus have begun to be distributed in Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
These three vaccines are being distributed as part of the US$29.7 million Pacific System Strengthening for Effective Coverage of New Vaccines Project, which is supporting their introduction in Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The vaccine initiative was originally launched by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance the acquisition of rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Across the four nations, the project is assisting health ministries in immunizing 90,700 children against pneumonia, 71,600 children against rotavirus, and 84,200 adolescent girls against HPV infections.
In addition, the project is assisting in the updating of national immunization and cold chain policies, as well as the upgrading of cold chain equipment and supply chain logistics, the improvement of immunization reporting systems, and other health system strengthening activities that are critical to reducing pneumonia, rotavirus, and HPV infections.
This well-established vaccinations project is making significant success, increasing overall immunization coverage rates, enabling more efficiency in primary health care, and raising community awareness at a critical time when the coronavirus epidemic is wreaking havoc throughout much of the globe (COVID-19). In the context of reopening borders and economies, it will also assist to enhance the region’s resilience against other infectious diseases.
Pneumonia and diarrhea are two of the top three causes of death among children under the age of five in the Pacific, and the pneumococcus bacteria, which is primarily spread through contact with infected children, is responsible for nearly one-third of all pneumonia deaths. Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children under the age of five.
With over a thousand cervical cancer cases each year, Pacific leaders have identified cervical cancer as one of their top three regional priorities.
In addition, the project has obtained additional funding to assist the four countries in implementing COVID-19 vaccines. The project creates a solid foundation for countries to safely administer COVID-19 vaccines, develop health systems, and raise community awareness.