About 1.4 million children under 12 months of age will be vaccinated against five deadly diseases under a four-year program beginning in October, an official from the Ministry of Health said last week.
The pentavalent vaccine protects children against five potentially fatal diseases: diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza, the bacteria that causes meningitis and pneumonia.
Children under one year of age should receive the vaccination in three doses, at two, four and six months, said Dr Soe Lwin Nyein, director of the Department of Epidemiology.
“The new vaccine … means [children] don’t need to be vaccinated for each disease separately. But there is no difference in the efficacy,” he said.
Children in Myanmar normally receive what is known as the DPT vaccine, which protects them against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.
The national vaccination program aims to reduce preventable infectious childhood diseases and as a consequence child mortality.
According to World Health Organisation statistics from 2009, about 2200 out of every 100,000 children under the age of five are infected with meningitis and severe pneumonia.
“This vaccine can reduce the mortality rate of these diseases,” Dr Soe Lwin Nyein said.
The pentavalent vaccine will be made available with funding from the Global Alliance on Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI).
In preparation for the launch of the project, which runs until 2016, the Ministry of Health has been providing training for health staff on vaccination provision. The ministry is also encouraging all parents to ensure their children do not miss the free vaccination.
“We want all children under the age of one to be vaccinated,” Dr Soe Lwin Nyein said. “It will help us meet one of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 – the one that calls for a two-thirds reduction in under-five mortality.”
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2009-10) conducted by Ministry of health and UNICEF shows that 88.6 percent of children under the age of one receive immunisations.
Infant mortality in Myanmar has been estimated at 37.5 deaths per 1000 live births and under-five mortality rate is estimated at 46.1 deaths per 1000 live births.