AS Papua New Guinea health authorities continue to prepare for the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, communities across the country are receiving immunisation to protect themselves against a range of other vaccine-preventable diseases like polio, measles, hepatitis B and tetanus.
More than half a million vaccine doses have been administered through the accelerated immunisation and health systems strengthening (AIHSS) programme since 2019.
The AIHSS programme includes supporting outreach clinics to remote communities and aims to increase routine immunisation coverage across the country.
Last year, nearly 100,000 children below the age of one received a pentavalent dose to build immunity against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and influenza B, while another 50,000 were protected against tuberculosis with the BCG vaccine.
Eastern Highlands health authority chief executive officer Dr Joseph Apa said delivering immunisations to children was an important public health measure.
“Immunisation is the best protective measure we have against vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.
“By getting vaccinated, people protect themselves, their families and their communities – especially vulnerable or sick relatives.”
The AIHSS programme is a Government initiative supported by the Australia and New Zealand governments and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, with technical assistance from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
This programme was implemented by provincial health authorities in partnership with immunisation support providers (non-government organisations and churches).
Australian High Commissioner Jon Philp said Australia was committed to partnering with PNG to deliver safe, effective vaccines throughout the country.
“Immunised communities are better protected against diseases, more likely to stay healthy and participate in education, work and community life,” he said.
“PNG and Australia have partnered to improve routine immunisation coverage and this will continue through the pandemic and beyond.
“We’re working closely with the PNG Government and international partners to prepare for the rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which is now being administered in Australia and many countries around the world.”
The National / PNG Health News
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