Health sector struggles with vaccine shortage

May 16, 2023 - 11:52
Doctor Phạm Văn Tuấn, director of Bình Chánh District Health Centre, said that the centre experienced a vaccine shortage and had to advise families to select private providers instead.
A health officer prepares a vaccine for a child. Photo

HÀ NỘI — The shortage of vaccines in public health facilities has led to many families willing to pay instead of waiting for free vaccination services under the national expanded programme on immunisation (EPI).

Doctor Phạm Văn Tuấn, director of Bình Chánh District Health Centre, said that the centre experienced a vaccine shortage and had to advise families to select private providers instead.

He said for many months, the number of vaccines provided for the expanded vaccination programme did not meet actual demand.

“Under the programme, vaccines are free for the people, the supply is often unstable, so it is difficult," he said.

Among vaccines being administered at the HCM City Centre for Disease Control (HCDC), many are out of stock, including 3 in 1 (diphtheria – whooping cough – tetanus), 5 in 1 (diphtheria – whooping cough – tetanus – polio – measles).

A representative of a ward health station in Bình Thạnh District said that many health clinics are struggling with vaccine shortage.

Their clinic currently lacks a "5 in 1" vaccine. The supply of measles vaccine, measles–rubella MR vaccine, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine are also one-off and not stable.

Work performance and extra income of staff of a health clinic are based partly on the vaccination rates of children in the ward, therefore this also affects them.

According to a representative of HCDC, the interruption of vaccine supply is a common issue in many localities, not just HCM City.

The EPI is providing immunisation to 10 vaccine-preventable diseases in Việt Nam.

It is estimated that EPI has saved 42,000 lives and prevented more than 6.7 million childhood diseases like polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles and pertussis with high vaccine coverage.

Ho Chi Minh City lacks many vaccines

In early May, the Ministry of Health asked the provincial health departments to identify the demand (for vaccines) and report to their locality’s People's Committee to arrange funding and procurement.

The Ministry of Finance proposed that starting from 2023 localities will balance the funds used to buy vaccinations and vaccines and deploy procurement instead of having these done by the Ministry of Health as before.

On May 11, Deputy Prime Minister Trần Hồng Hà asked the health ministry to consider and have the plan to place orders or have bid and negotiate prices so that localities can have a basis for procurement and avoid the lack of vaccines for the EPI.

Nguyễn Hoài Nam, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Health, said that the city's lack of many vaccines for the EPI has been going on for a long time.

According to the latest direction of the Government, the health ministry still conducts bidding and procurement for vaccines for this programme.

The health department of the city calculated and sent the estimated amount of vaccines needed for the EPI in 2023 and the first six months of 2024 to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Accordingly, in 2023, HCM City needs some 672,000 doses of the vaccines for the EPI of 12 types/groups, among them the DPT-VGB-Hib vaccine ("5-in-1" vaccine) accounted for the largest share with 123,000 doses.

In the first six months of 2024, the city is expected to need more than 880,000 doses.

In total, from now until June 2024, the city is expected to need nearly 1,553,000 doses of vaccines for the EPI.

Amid the current vaccine shortage, the health sector of the city recommends the public take measures to proactively prevent common infectious diseases such as frequent hand washing, wearing a mask when having respiratory symptoms, cleaning contact surfaces and keeping the house well-ventilated. — VNS