Indonesia launches pentavalent vaccine

In an attempt to reduce the children-under-five mortality rate and expand the coverage of the national vaccination program, the government has launched the pentavalent vaccine, a vaccine that combines five antigens — Diphteria (DPT), Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B (HB) and Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) — in one single shot for newborn babies.

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said on Thursday that with the new vaccine, the ministry aimed to expand the coverage of the vaccination program, because with only one injection for five antigens, it would be more convenient for both the baby and parent, while also lowering the cost of the immunization.

With the current vaccine used, a baby must get injected nine times for DPT, HB and Hib. The pentavalent vaccine reduced the number of injections to only three, with an interval of one month.

“The basic vaccination program that previously only focused on preventing seven diseases, would also be improved with this new vaccine, as it also prevents babies from having pneumonia and meningitis,” she said.

In 2012, 86.8 percent of children under five received basic vaccinations, which had exceeded the initial target of 85 percent, the minister said.

“We aimed to vaccinate all children, because the 15 percent figure is equal to 3.9 million babies who haven’t been vaccinated and that is a terrible condition and number,” she told reporters on Thursday.

Produced by Biofarma, the vaccine will initially be introduced in four provinces — West Java, Yogyakarta, Bali and West Nusa Tenggara — to vaccinate around 800,000 babies this year.

A public-private partnership GAVI Alliance, whose members include Unicef, WHO and the World Bank, disbursed initial funding that reached US$23.9 million to help provide the vaccine in the country.

“In addition to that, we have given vaccine implementation a $4 million grant to help train health workers for the new vaccine and give information to concerned parents,” Helen Evans, the deputy chief executive officer of GAVI Alliance said.

“We have a commitment to fund the vaccine until the end of 2016. We have a policy that the government provide contributions to the vaccine, and because Indonesia’s economy is growing, the Indonesian government will provide more and more for this pentavalent,” Evans said.

According to GAVI, the total cost to provide the vaccine between 2013 to 2016 is expected to be US$ 112 million. Of that amount, GAVI will pay a total of US$ 51.1 million which represents 45 percent of the vaccine cost between 2013-2016, while the rest of the cost will be paid by the Indonesian government. In 2017, the government will fully finance the vaccine without any support from the foreign aid.

First launched in Guyana in 2001, GAVI aims to immunize more than 550 million children by 2020.

The vaccine has apparently caused controversy in other countries including India, where 21 infants died after receiving the pentavalent vaccine.

The Economic Times reported that the government of India will soon conduct a study to ascertain the vaccine’s safety.

Meanwhile, Nafsiah said that the quality of the pentavalent vaccine should no longer be questionable.

“The vaccine is safe. A vaccination on a healthy baby will not cause any problems,” she said.

Source: The Jakarta Post