PAPUA NEW GUINEA — Papua New Guinea is taking the first steps towards the global eradication of polio, and the protection of its children against measles and rubella. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) has been incorporated into its routine immunization program while at the same time, launching a nationwide measles-rubella vaccine (MR) campaign.
The Papua New Guinea Government unveiled its support for this immunization campaign in Port Moresby. Immunization is widely recognized as one of the most cost-effective and impactful public health interventions available. But most importantly, thousands of children’s lives will be protected against these preventable diseases.
Immunization is highly thought of as a stepping-stone to other health interventions. The National Health Department and their development partners are launching a Special Integrated Routine EPI Strengthening Program (SIREP) to introduce the new vaccines. The MR vaccines will be targeted to reach children ages 9 months to 15 years old and the IPV vaccine will be targeted to reach children 3 to 12 months old.
The introduction of IPV into Papua New Guinea’s routine immunization schedule is part of the worldwide rollout of the vaccine across 126 countries by the end of 2015. This campaign is funded by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and is also supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr. O’Neill says, “The introduction of IPV is the result of significant progress for our country and the world against polio. It means that we are another step closer to ridding the world of this terrible disease, and we are on a path to provide the best possible protection against this virus to all.”
Not only will the introduction of the IPV help the people of Papua New Guinea, but it will help stop the spread of polio to other areas.
Helen Evans, the Special Representative of the Gavi CEO in the Asia-Pacific Area says, “By introducing the inactivated polio vaccine, Papua New Guinea is contributing to the global eradication effort of this crippling disease. Polio remains a threat as long as there are cases anywhere in the world. By supporting IPV and helping other countries strengthen their routine immunisation systems, Gavi is contributing to the tremendous partnership that aims to rid the world of this disease once and for all.”
Alongside the introduction of IPV, Papua New Guinea introduced the measles-rubella vaccines. Although Papua New Guinea has reported no confirmed measles cases for several years, the country experiences a nationwide outbreak in 2013.
The MR vaccine also protects girls and future mothers against rubella, which affects over 100,000 children. Rubella causes children to be born with malformations and disabilities due to Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
Papua New Guinea understands the importance of children’s health of today and of future generations. With the introduction of these two vaccines into the routine immunization program, thousands of lives will be saved not only from the diseases, but malformations and disabilities a child would live with for life.
– Kerri Szulak
Sources: Gavi, WHO
Photo: Huffington Post