Launch of 3 major life-saving vaccines for infants on 4th June to commemorate Her Majesty’s birth anniversary

To commemorate the 28th birth anniversary of Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan will launch three new vaccines on 4th June 2018.

There are Pneumococcal vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine and Flu vaccine.

Pneumococcal vaccine

Pneumococcal disease causes various infections such as meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and ear infections.  Pneumonia is one of the top 10 diseases in Bhutan accounting for 27.8% of child deaths in Bhutan. Meningitis account for about 5% of child deaths. The vaccine will be administered to about 14000 children under 1 year of age and is expected to contribute significantly to reduction of childhood morbidity and mortality translating to improved Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR). A cost-effectiveness study conducted by the Ministry has revealed the introduction of this vaccine provides “good value for money”.

Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a highly contagious virus which infects the intestines and is the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in infants and young children worldwide. Diarrhea is a major cause of illness and death among Bhutanese children with 13% of child deaths attributable to diarrhea. The vaccine will be administered to about 14000 children under 1 year of age and is expected to contribute significantly to reduction of childhood morbidity and mortality translating to improved Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR).

Flu

Flu (influenza) vaccine is an effective preventive health measure against seasonal influenza to reduce illness, complications and deaths among pregnant women, children under 5 years of age, elderly persons and persons with chronic health conditions. Considering that the circulating influenza virus strains changes over the years, the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System recommends vaccination on an annual basis to ensure optimal match between the vaccine and circulating influenza strains. We will administer flu vaccine on an annual basis for high risk groups: pregnant women, children aged under 5 years, elderly (+65 years), Individuals with specific chronic medical conditions and health-care workers.

Introduction of pneumococcal vaccine is estimated to cost Nu. 11.7 million annually and an additional one-time introduction cost of Nu. 4.62 million. Introduction of rotavirus vaccine is estimated to cost Nu. 12.52 million annually with an additional one-time introduction cost of Nu. 4.62 million. Flu vaccine is estimated to cost Nu. 58.89 million annually with an additional one-time introduction cost of Nu. 5 million. The cost of these vaccines would be met from the Bhutan Health Trust Fund.

In view of logistics and technical readiness, the Ministry will start administering these vaccines through the routine immunization services from January 2019.

Since 1979, when Bhutan launched the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), a total of 11 vaccines are provided in Bhutan as of today.  With the introduction of 3 new vaccines, a total of 14 vaccinations will be provided through routine immunization programme; Polio, Measles, BCG, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hep B, Hib, Rubella, Mumps, HPV, pneumococcal, rotavirus and flu. The immunization coverage in Bhutan stands at 97% today.

The official launch of the new vaccines would be held at the Ministry of Health premises at 9 am, Monday, 4 June 2018.

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