The outbreak of diseases in Morobe is due to ineffective performance of the immunisation system, an international expert says.
The chief executive of Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (Gavi) Secretariat Dr Seth Berkley said the reason for his visit to Morobe on Tuesday was to check out the low performance of immunisation systems.
“Gavi is an alliance of organisations such as World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other donors,” he said.
“The idea is to bring all of the key agencies that are working on the challenges of immunisation together, to help countries.
“We have been working in PNG and have been trying to bring new vaccines to the population and to help strengthen health systems.”
Berkley said coverage of immunisation had not been high as it should be.
“In a sense, it is a great opportunity because vaccines are the most cost-effective intervention in health,” he said.
“For a country like PNG, with such a large number of young people, this is an opportunity to be able to take the next generation, make them healthy and be able to deal with the demographic dividend that PNG has.
“As we were planning this visit, this outbreak of polio unfortunately occurred.
“The decision was made to come to Morobe to understand a little bit about how things are going.”
Berkley stressed that the problem in PNG was not with polio, but with the routine immunisation system.
“The coverage rate for polio here is 35 per cent, and for inactivate polio vaccine is 28 per cent,” he said.
“Because of the very low coverage, it allows the vaccine to be able to revert back to a disease-causing organism and to spread.
“That’s why there is an outbreak.
“The idea of the team is to come and have a discussion with policy makers so we hope to know what we can do to help.
“We know the obvious: The geographical difficulties, the country’s economy, but we also know that there’s an opportunity to do better.
“We look forward to hearing discussions and to see how we can do a better job in providing assistance for the people of PNG.” The National