The number of children dying from vaccine-preventable causes in Vietnam has been reduced significantly since 1981, when the country introduced the national immunization program – the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) – with the aim to ensure that every child, everywhere in Vietnam can receive the lifesaving protection of routine immunizations, the two U.N. agencies said in their joint media release issued on April 25.

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Since the start of the program, Vietnam has eradicated smallpox and polio, eliminated neonatal tetanus, and dramatically reduced other vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and Japanese encephalitis, by immunizing millions of children.

According to WHO and UNICEF, vaccines are one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Globally, in the last 50 years alone, vaccines have saved nearly 154 million lives (more than 3 million a year) with more children now living to see their first birthday and beyond than at any other time in human history.

UNICEF Vietnam Representative Rana Flowers said that Vietnam’s immunization program has been instrumental in saving children’s lives and alleviating the devastating impact of vaccine-preventable diseases on families, communities and the country as a whole for over 40 years.

"Looking forward, we strongly encourage the Government of Vietnam to sustain this tremendous achievement, so that every child has the opportunity to survive, thrive and lead a healthy life," she said.

In Vietnam, vaccines covered by the program are free for all children. Immunization is safe and the most effective way to protect children against many preventable deadly diseases. However, like many other countries, routine immunization services in Vietnam were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children who are not vaccinated are at an increased risk of serious illnesses that are easily prevented with a vaccine. In addition, high numbers of unvaccinated children may result in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

These risks are threatening the gains achieved by Vietnam towards reducing child deaths over the past few decades.

It is important that accelerated efforts and bold action continue to be taken by the government to ensure that essential vaccines reach every child in a timely fashion – not only those who are due for vaccination, but also all those who missed their vaccinations in the last four years.

WHO Representative in Vietnam Dr Angela Pratt said that Vietnam’s success in eliminating some, and dramatically reducing rates of other, vaccine-preventable diseases shows the power of vaccination.

Action to achieve these remarkable results has been spearheaded by the Government and supported by strong cooperation from health-care workers in even the remotest communes, local partners, community-based organizations, local leaders and communities, international development partners, donors and scientists over many years, she said.

However, she noted that some of these gains are currently at risk.

“We must act urgently to close existing immunity gaps and ensure that life-saving vaccines reach every child, in every corner of the country, today and into the future,” she urged.

Source: VNA