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Samoa falling behind global vaccination target: A.D.B.

Samoa is falling behind global vaccination targets, according to an Asian Development Bank report released this week.

Samoa was vaccinating just 71.8 per cent of children in 2017, according to the report, citing data from the World Bank. That is the country's lowest vaccination rate since 2010, when it jumped up to 73.4 per cent from a low of 64 per cent in 2009.

The July Pacific Economic Monitor, released on Tuesday, reveals Samoa’s primary health service quality is falling because of factors such as a shrinking workforce; drug shortages and access issues.

“These factors have contributed to deterioration in routine immunisation coverage rates that, in recent years, have fallen short of the international target of over 90 per cent,” the report states.

Around the region, just Tuvalu was singled out as vaccinating over 90 per cent, and is reported to have been doing so consistently since 2006. Today Tuvalu vaccinates 96.4 per cent of its children.

Also below the target is Tonga at 83.8 per cent and Vanuatu at 85.6 per cent.

Last year, the A.D.B announced US$7.5 million to finance the purchase of HPV, rotavirus, and pneumococcus conjugate vaccines though an established UNICEF supply facility.

The bank also announced $3.85 million for Tonga and $2.5 million for Tuvalu for the same resources, and a $2.25 million concessional loan and a $9 million grant from A.D.B for Vanuatu.

In April Minister of Health Director General Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said he expects the vaccines will be rolled out by the end of the year. 

This financing is essential, because the three vaccines cost more than traditional vaccines, and are not funded by the Vaccine Independence Imitative where Samoa procures its other vaccines from.

“Successfully introducing them into the health-care system requires significant investments in cold chain equipment and health worker training, among others,” the report states.

The A.D.B said the problems these vaccines target (pneumonia and diarrhoea are two of the top three causes of mortality in children under five, and “leading reasons for hospitalisation" in Samoan children. 

“Diarrhoea also accounts for six per cent of deaths among children under five in Samoa, higher than the global average of two per cent," the report says. 

As well as funding the drug orders, the A.D.B intends to help develop a range of areas within the vaccination sphere including: updated vaccine guidelines and training materials; training of health workers in administering vaccines; supply-chain and waste management, and preventative maintenance. The A.D.B. says it will also prioritise better use of data about immunisation rates and surveys to assess the quality and equity of vaccine management programs. 

The report on Samoa was compiled by Cara Tinio, Economics and Statistics Analyst in the A.D.B’s Pacific Department.

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