Vaccination hole exists in remote disadvantaged areas

September 22, 2020 - 00:00

“While Việt Nam has done a good job in controlling COVID-19, we still face challenges in tackling other communicable diseases like dengue, measles, hand-foot-mouth disease and diphtheria.”


Deputy Health Minister Đỗ Xuân Tuyên (standing) chairs an online meeting on communicable diseases and vaccinations on Monday. Health officials and workers from 700 locations across Việt Nam joined the meeting, which also included updated treatment schemes for dengue and diphtheria. VNS Photo Thanh Hải 

HÀ NỘI — Vaccinations must take place safely and effectively, particularly in remote disadvantaged areas where vaccination coverage remained modest, Deputy Health Minister Đỗ Xuân Tuyên said yesterday.

Speaking during a national online meeting on communicable diseases and vaccinations, Tuyên highlighted a diphtheria outbreak in Việt Nam’s Central Highland region over the last few months which claimed four deaths. Most of the detected cases were people who had not been vaccinated.

“While Việt Nam has done a good job in controlling COVID-19, we still face challenges in tackling other communicable diseases like dengue, measles, hand-foot-mouth disease and diphtheria,” he said.

Late this year and early next year, diseases could develop as wet weather creates favourable conditions for disease-causing virus/bacteria to develop.

“Việt Nam has been implementing two tasks - disease prevention and control and socio-economic development as directed by Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc,” Tuyên said, emphasising that it was crucial to minimise the risks of other diseases that broke out at the same time.

“We need to analyse the development of each disease in specific areas to identify and solve any problems,”  he said.

“As we follow these steps we are receiving recommendations for further effective disease prevention and control. Communication must be promoted for people to better understand and actively protect themselves from diseases,” Tuyên said.

Đặng Quang Tấn, head of the Health Ministry’s General Department of Preventive Medicine, said that since the beginning of this year, 198 diphtheria cases had been reported in Việt Nam, including 172 cases in the Central Highland region, 22 cases in central provinces and four cases in southern provinces.

No cases had been detected in Việt Nam’s northern provinces since 2015.

Of the reported cases, two people died in the Central Highland province of Đắk Nông, one in Kon Tum and one in Gia Lai.

Notably, 161 cases had not been vaccinated.

In the first nine months of last year, only 41 diphtheria cases were reported, with three deaths.

“Most diphtheria outbreaks occur in remote disadvantaged areas that are home to ethnic groups, and they are usually unwilling to have vaccinations,” Tấn said, adding that in some areas diphtheria had not appeared for a long time so grassroots healthcare workers lacked the experience to detect and diagnose the disease.

“Old people are becoming infected with diphtheria because they have not been. This is due to the ineffective implementation of the expanded national vaccination programme,” Tấn said.

Even people who receive four diphtheria vaccine doses during childhood still need to have a booster shot as immunity against diphtheria is not sustainable.

Tấn warned more diphtheria cases could be recorded and in areas where the vaccination programme had failed to reach.

Meanwhile, this year Việt Nam has also reported nearly 70,000 dengue fever cases, of which 57 per cent were detected in southern provinces, 32 per cent in central provinces, 6 per cent in Central Highland provinces and 4 per cent in northern provinces.

The number of has fallen compared with the same period last year and the development of the disease was basically similar to previous years.

However, in the last two months, the number was increasing, Tấn said, adding that as the rainy season arrived, the situation could become worse and more complicated, especially in central and southern provinces like Bến Tre, Bình Định, Bình Dương, Đồng Nai, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Khánh Hòa, BìnhThuận, Kon Tum, Long An, Phú Yên, Quảng Bình, Tây Ninh, Tiền Giang and TP.HCM. Hà Nội is also a hot spot for dengue at this time.

“Preventive measures including intensive communication about killing mosquitoes and larva have been implemented but the disease has still broken out and spread,” Tấn said, blaming the problem on poor public awareness.

For example, people, agencies and organisations had not effectively co-operated on disease prevention and control.

“Without drastic preventive measures, dengue could spread widely as Việt Nam loosens social distancing and travel restrictions while weather in the next few months will be very favourable for mosquitoes to grow,” Tấn said. VNS