|A medical worker vaccinates a baby in Ha Noi. Funds for the national immunisation programme will be cut by 40 per cent next year, worrying health experts. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
HA NOI (VNS) — Health experts might limit the number of participants in the national immunisation programme or reduce the available vaccines, as funds will be reduced by 40 per cent next year.
Funds supplied by the State for the programme next year will total VND144 billion (US$6.8 million). If the programme does not receive other assistance, available funds will only meet 24 per cent of the demand and would seriously affect the programme's targets, norms and international commitments, according to experts.
According to Professor Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and chairman of the programme, with the limited fund, the programme could not proceed with the fourth booster doses against diphtheria, whooping-cough and tetanus, as well as the second booster doses against measles for 18-month-old children.
Also, the programme cuts will mean reducing the doses provided to protect against Japanese encephalitis B by 70 per cent and reduce cholera and typhoid vaccinations in the affected areas.
"Epidemics can break out in the community, and the main victims will be children and pregnant women," said Hien.
Further, funds to buy the Quinvaxem vaccine against diphtheria, whooping-cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and meningitis will be cut by 20 per cent.
The programme also is not providing funding to repair equipment to maintain vaccines and carry out other work, including training courses on vaccinations, dissemination of information, supervision and transportation of vaccines.
Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health's Department of Planning and Finance Nguyen Quang An said the ministry had organised a conference to consider how to arrange funds for different health programmes, including that on national immunisation.
The ministry had sought to call for other funding sources for the programme, such as from projects and international organisations, he said.
The ministry also submitted a document to the Government in which it proposed a special fund for four health programmes. The national immunisation programme would receive the first preference for funding, followed by tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever, said An.
However, some parents seemed not to care about the shortage of the programme's fund.
Nguyen Minh Hoa, who lives in Ha Noi's Dong Da District, said that if the programme lacked vaccines, she would participate in the immunisation services for her children.
If she uses the immunisation services she will have to pay VND100,000-500,000 (US$4.7-23) for each dose, whereas she does not pay anything if she use vaccines made available through the programme.
"I have to spend some money, but I will not be worried about vaccine shortages," she said.
The fund shortage will affect children and mothers in poor rural areas only, Hoa said.
The national im-munisation programme has been conducted in the country for 25 years. The beneficiaries are children from new born to 3 years old and women of child-bearing ages between 16 and 35 years old. — VNS