Vaccination issues putting our children at risk

Editorial

STATISTICS show that one child in every 13 born in PNG die before the age of five – which is higher than any other country in the Pacific.
These deaths can easily be prevented with readily available vaccines.
The biggest challenge causing low immunisation coverage is that many children in PNG do not get vaccinated for some reason.
This places PNG at a risk of disease outbreaks if immediate actions are not in place to get these left-out children vaccinated.
Immunisation is considered one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions in the world.
In fact, immunisations prevent two to three million deaths across the world every year from diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles.
Yet, almost 22 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines.
A fact remains and that is immunisation coverage in PNG (nationwide) is low and if the trend continues, experts predict that an outbreak of diseases and infections for children in the next two years.
The immunisation coverage level required by WHO was 80 per cent but most of the provinces were showing about 60 per cent coverage.
PNG currently has less than 75 per cent of immunisation coverage.
Having a low immunisation coverage rate means a high percentage of children are not protected against preventable diseases such as measles, pneumonia, Tuberculosis, whooping cough, hepatitis B, diphtheria and meningitis.
This is definitely not good news.
Information out of the PNG Unicef office says hundreds of children and women in PNG miss out on the life-saving immunisation because they live in remote isolated areas.
And that has led to a dramatic decrease in deaths of children under five from vaccine-preventable diseases.
According to PNG’s annual report on Child Morbidity in 2015, of the 16,278 total hospital admissions 41.4 per cent are vaccine preventable diseases while of the 1,247 total child deaths, 46 per cent are from vaccine preventable diseases.
This report covers data on child admissions and outcomes in 2015 from 14 provincial hospitals.
PNG joined the global community last month to celebrate World Immunisation Week.
That event is set aside for respective countries to reflect on their immunisation programmes, celebrate achievements and intensify immunisation campaigns if need be.
We noticed events marking that world event was low keyed and wondered why.
Everyone has a big responsibility to continue working and working extra hard until PNG reaches a point that we feel we have a reason to celebrate.
The wheels for change in immunisation must turn and turn in the right direction and accelerate speed to get the coverage gap by reach the 95 per cent or even 100 per cent or closer.
That is a huge task.
Health experts are now calling for everyone, including parents to help ensure their children are immunised with vaccines that are freely being given in government-run health facilities.
Childhood vaccination has never been about one child and one needle, about a parent’s right to decide in isolation.
It is a community responsibility, a responsibility that objecting parents shirk.
Vaccination is about keeping all our children safe.

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