Immunization Rates In PNG Drop Dramatically

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Already low rate of 55% drops to 42% since 2009

By Haiveta Kivia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 4, 2015) – Immunisation of children less than one year of age in Papua New Guinea has drastically dropped since 2009 to 42 per cent, way below world standards recommended by the World Health Organisation.

The figures were released by Health Secretary Pascoe Kase through a circular dated May 1, 2015, to all provinces and health managers at national level to help arrest the falling figures and announce the introduction of two new vaccines to the country.

The two new vaccines are Measles-Rubella and Inactivated Polio.

But the worrying figure is PNG‘s immunisation of children under one. The world standards recommended by WHO is at 80 per cent and above, and in 2009, PNG only immunised 55 per cent of its children under one.

And five year after that, the figure plummeted with PNG only immunising 42 per cent of its children, 38 per cent worse off from the world standards.

The figures are not getting any better despite the National Department of Health (NDoH) developing a special expanded program on immunisation (EPI) in the National Health Plan 2011-2020, and WHO and the NDoH are trying their very best to elevate the plummeting figures.

The plan is to increase immunisation coverage to more than 90 per cent at the national level, and to reach more districts to maintain polio free status, eliminate measles, control hepatitis B, eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus and introduce new vaccines.

The department is now introducing a ‘Special Integrated Routine EPI Strengthening Program (SIREP) this month and will continue until the set goals are met.

The Islands region is the best performing in terms of immunisation but its figures are also dropping. In 2009, the region recorded 70 per cent but dropped to 60 per cent.

Southern region is the next best performer and its figures are consistent and hover around the 50 per cent mark but needs to be improved.

The worse performers are Highlands and Mamose regions, Highlands is around the 46 per cent mark and dropped to 40 per cent which it maintains to date.

Mamose’s figures are far worse and alarming; falling from 50 to 28 per cent in just five years and it is not getting any better if poor statistics from its leading province Morobe is a yard stick to measure in the region.

The department’s SIREP has interventions and strategies pencilled in but the flagging human resource and increasing population is not helping matters.

The frightening statistics in Lae’s urban health centres of one nurse to 200, 000 patients is a contributing factor of health workers unable to go out on immunisation patrols and delivering quality health care.

Poor logistical and financial support from the national, provincial and district headquarters were also blamed. for poor immunisation results.

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