Every year, thousands of babies are born in the country but 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 which includes measles, polio, whooping cough and tetanus.
A national launch was held on Monday in Port Moresby to kick-start the Supplementary Immunization Activity on Measles-Rubella, Polio and Vitamin A by the National Department of Health, UNICEF and World Health Organisation.
This is to raise the raise the country’s immunization coverage rate to save lives of children.
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.
UNICEF PNG Country Representative, Dr Claudes Kamenga said 80% of the population live in the rural areas and these children need to be reached so they can be immunized like the rest of the children in the urban areas.
“Vaccines Work and Vaccines save Lives.”
“Despite all the effort by the government and its partners, the coverage is only about 40% which is critically low.”
“It is actually estimated that in PNG, We have about 280,000 children who have not received one single dose of vaccine.”
Dr Kamenga highlighted that this is a very serious situation meaning that children who haven’t received vaccines or partially vaccinated are at risk of getting preventable diseases.
UNICEF recently released a report showing that there was a decline in children vaccination in the last 2 years maybe due to Covid-19 pandemic challenges.
That is why UNICEF is supporting this Catch-up vaccination program is important to build build back immunity against preventable diseases.
Dr Kamenga further stated that Vaccination is a priority for UNICEF and parents with children born in the past 3 years, during the Covid-19 pandemic or children who missed out on one or more vaccines are vaccinated and kept safe from diseases.
He added that UNICEF will work together with World Health Organisation and the National Department of Health to carry out a successful Immunization Program.
The Supplementary Immunization Activity (SIA) on Measles-Rubella, Polio and Vitamin A, will be conducted by the National Department of Health will go for five weeks.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Dr Osbourne Liko said that even though immunization services are free at all government-run health facilities throughout the country, many children are still not being brought for immunization which is unacceptable.
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.
NDOH is encouraging all parents to to bring their children in for vaccination.
The campaign will go for five weeks and will cover all the 22 provinces, including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.