HA NOI (VNS)— The Ministry of Health's Centre for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals will complete production of an additional two million doses of measles vaccines over the next month to meet increasing demand.
The centre's deputy director Le Thi Luan said a recent outbreak of measles in the country from the beginning of the year had led to a rapid increase in the number of children flocking to medical centres.
Ordinarily, children are eligible to receive free vaccinations against measles, under the national open vaccination programme. However, driven by increasing concerns over the quality of free vaccines, residents rushed to medical centres for paid vaccinations, triggering vaccine shortages in some medical centres.
The centre's paid vaccination office alone recorded a 20-30 per cent surge in the number of children being vaccinated, primarily against measles and chicken pox, above normal demand, she said.
In response to the spike in demand, the centre pledged it would produce an additional two million doses of the vaccine for the national open vaccination programme, to be made available next month, she said.
Ha Noi has vaccinated for more than 30,000 children under the age of two, against measles since March this year, equivalent to 55 per cent, according to the municipal health department.
Addressing the shortage of the chicken pox vaccine, Luan said the vaccine would take longer to become available, as importers of the wholly-imported vaccine would need to complete custom procedures and undergo testing by local authorities before making the vaccine available for use.
She also said the sudden rise in the number of children getting vaccinated against chicken pox had led to shortages, with the number of imported vaccines said to be limited due to vaccine expiry dates.
The country has recorded nearly 1,000 cases of measles this year, including three fatalities. The disease has primarily affected children under the age of ten and those who have not been administered the proper vaccine.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. The disease, which is caused by a virus from the paramyxovirus family, results in about 330 deaths every day and 14 deaths every hour.
Measles vaccinations have led to a 78 per cent drop in the number of deaths between 2000 and 2012, worldwide. Since 2000, more than one billion children in high risk countries were immunised against the disease through mass vaccination programmes.
Chicken pox vaccine
Nearly 80,000 doses of much-needed of chicken pox vaccine arrived in the country last Thursday, according Drug Administration of Viet Nam.
The National Institute of Vaccines and Biology has verified the quality of each vaccine, and they are now ready to be sent to immunisation sites around the country this week.
The administration asked the immunisation sites to continue to report demand for the vaccine, so that they can ensure future imports.
The southern provinces have been without vaccines for chicken pox for the last five months and in the north, three months. Many central provinces including Nghe An Province and Da Nang City also have also faced shortages.
There have been outbreaks of chicken pox since the beginning of this year. HCM City's Preventive Medicine Division reported 131 patients infected with chicken pox over the last two months, an increase of 157 per cent compared to the same period of last year. Ha Noi has recorded 188 patients with chicken pox as of February 20.
Also landed in the country are five-in-one vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib); the six-in-one vaccines against tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and polio; and the seasonal flu vaccines have run out of at many immunisation sites in the country.
However, the drug import companies are not yet able to import more vaccines. — VNS