Bangladesh_ immunization_campaign
The introduction of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) has benefited over three million children in Bangladesh. These additional immunizations in Bangladesh are now given regularly to children in accordance with the country’s national immunization program.

In 1979, Bangladesh started the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) to reduce child deaths from vaccine preventable deaths. The first six vaccines administered against infectious diseases included tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and measles.

Currently, Bangladesh is administering vaccines against nine diseases to children under the age of 1. More than 85 percent of children are vaccinated, an achievement that helped Bangladesh to become one of the six countries in the world that achieved Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on child mortality before the 2015 deadline.

WHO, UNICEF, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners support the addition of these novel vaccines to the country’s national immunization program. In 2013, the government of Bangladesh doubled its vaccine storage capacity to allow the storage of the PCV.

Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, says “Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of child mortality in Bangladesh, accounting for 22 percent of deaths of children under the age of 5, so the introduction of pneumococcal vaccine will have a major positive impact on child survival”.

By adding the IPV into Bangladesh’s national immunization campaign, it is fulfilling the Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018.

To ensure that the IPV and the PCV are added to every child’s immunization card, over 45,000 community health workers play the key role to ensure that parents bring their children in for their immunization sessions.

In order for these new immunizations to become a success, the community health workers had to complete extensive training in order to administer the vaccines, and to also be knowledgeable to answer any of the parents’ questions.

Aside from the necessary training, health workers in Bangladesh faced other challenges in the course of administering the new vaccines. The equipment that keeps the vaccines cold and vital, the national cold chain, had to be modified in order to adjust to the varying temperatures during the monsoon season. In addition to the varying temperatures, rickshaws had to be used for transportation through the crowded cities in order to deliver the vaccines in time for immunization sessions.

There have been many obstacles for the vaccines to be administered to the three million children in Bangladesh. From extreme temperatures, extensive training and implementation, the PCV and IPV have had a difficult undertaking to make it to the immunization sessions.

However, these vaccines will lower the mortality rate for children under five dying from pneumonia. Pneumonia, a bacterial or viral infection, has been an illness prevented in many countries. With the immunization in Bangladesh, more children will build immunity against the illness and survive the infection if contracted.

– Kerri Szulak

Sources: Bdnews24, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, Vaccine News Daily
Photo: UNICEF New Zealand