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New vaccines available

New vaccines available

Cambodia is one step closer to reducing child mortality – a World Health Organization global goal for 2015 – after the Ministry of Health recently introduced a new vaccine that prevents the deadliest form of pneumonia and meningitis to the Kingdom’s National Immunization Program.

Starting Wednesday, children under the age of 1 could begin to receive the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) free of charge in public health facilities across the Kingdom and other immunisation outreach services.

“This is a new stage that the government is entering,” Health Minister Mam Bunheng said yesterday. “We want to protect the children from pneumonia and meningitis.”

Nearly 1 million out of a total of 6 million children’s deaths globally are caused by pneumonia, and pneumococcal pneumonia is primarily responsible for these fatalities.

In Cambodia, 16.7 per cent of deaths of children under 5 were due to pneumonia, while meningitis is accountable for another 1.4 per cent, according to 2013 WHO data.

Minister of Health Dr Mam Bunheng injects a 6-week-old baby with the new vaccine in Phnom Penh
Minister of Health Dr Mam Bunheng injects a 6-week-old baby with the new vaccine in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. WHO

The MoH and the WHO plans to administer three doses of the vaccine to 350,000 infants in 2015 to help prevent the spread of both diseases, said WHO immunisation program technical officer Dr Shafiqul Hossain.

International organisation GAVI is funding $3.50 of each dose while the government co-finances $0.20.

Phnom Penh resident Chan Srey said she has already brought her 6-month-old baby for inoculation.

“I heard the Ministry of Health announcement . . . that’s why I hurried to go to the clinic,” Srey said. “I need my daughter to get healthy and avoid any kinds of diseases.”

The introduction of the new vaccine, Hossain said, will contribute towards the Kingdom’s attempt to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing its under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds.

“This vaccine is a good and positive way to impact the reduction of child mortality and bring Cambodia closer to reaching the MDG,” Hossain said.

He added that the MoH and WHO are planning to roll out vaccines nationally for other preventable diseases like Japanese encephalitis and polio between October 2015 and early 2016.

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