Nguyen Minh Hang, deputy director of the Preventive Medicine Department, tells Tien Phong (Vanguard) about a plan to adjust vaccine prices and better support health workers.
What do you think about the EPI's results over the past few years?
The (EPI) programme has protected thousands of women and children from diseases and injuries thanks to high immunisation rates maintained over the past 30 years.
Viet Nam eliminated wild polio in 2000 and eradicated neonatal tetanus in 2005. Infection and fatality rates of transmitted diseases for children like diphtheria, pertussis and measles have declined considerably compared to the situation in the 1980s.
However, there are some shortcomings with the implementation process and it requires consideration about how to better meet disease prevention demands. Improving vaccination programmes is a priority policy of the Government, so the health ministry, in collaboration with relevant ministries, is drawing up a new decree on vaccination management.
The decree will make changes in the organisation, financing and implementation of immunisation. Increasing financial support for health workers in EPI and an adjustment of locally manufactured vaccine prices are to major staples of the new decree.
Can you give more details about changes to vaccine prices and health worker's financial support?
The 2013 Circular 113/2013 from the health and finance ministries set EPI health workers monetary support at VND6,000 (30 US cents) for every vaccine package (eight injections and one oral vaccine) administered to patients. For workers in especially underprivileged areas, their rates were higher at VND12,000 (60 cents) per vaccine package.
It means that an EPI health worker receives an average VND600 per vaccine administered when staff at more expensive serviced vaccine centres got VND7,000 (35 cents) per oral vaccine and VND17,000 (80 cents) per vaccine injection.
Many health workers at community levels did not want to work for EPI due to low vaccination allowance. That's why the Government told the health ministry to collaborate with the finance ministry to increase health workers' compensation in an effort to make EPI salaries competitive with serviced vaccine programme.
The second ongoing issue is EPI's vaccine prices.
The cost of materials, chemicals, electricity, water and the minimum wage changed significantly over the past decade while the price of vaccines remained relatively unmoved. The price of vaccines has remained almost unchanged since 2010.
The current situation, therefore, poses many difficulties for long-term production, new vaccine development and for local vaccine manufactures. A new price for locally made vaccines needs to be based off current input costs.
How does the quality of locally produced vaccines compare to imported ones?
At moment, eight out of every 10 vaccines used by the EPI are produced by Vietnamese manufacturers. Some locally made vaccines are also used in serviced vaccination programmes, such as hepatitis A and Japanese encephalitis vaccines.
All vaccines used in Viet Nam, both locally made and imported ones, are under tight safety and quality controls - from production to preservation, and transport to distribution.
The World Health Organisation acknowledges that the vaccine management system in Viet Nam meets international standards. This means that Viet Nam absolutely has the ability to control vaccine quality and the effectiveness of the EPI programme.
The Government recently approved a project that will create favourable conditions for Vietnamese vaccine manufacturers to continue production of existing vaccines and improve their research and development capacities. This will help ensure that EPI has sufficient stores of vaccines, and enough to export in the coming time. — VNS