Expanded programme on immunization

Papua New Guinea launches SIREP Plus – Introduction of Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Measles-Rubella (MR) Vaccine.

From Left to right- Dr Sergey Diorditsa, EPI Coordinator WPRO ; Dr Pieter Van Maaren,- WHO Representative to PNG; Ms. Helen Evans, Special Representative of the Gavi CEO in the Asia Pacific Region (former Gavi Deputy CEO); Mr. Michael Malabag, Minister for Health, PNG (giving speech) and Honourable Mr Peter Charles Paire O’Neill Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

Adding to the global progress of polio eradication and eliminate measles and rubella control, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has introduced the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) into its routine immunization programme and launched nationwide measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaigns.

“The introduction of IPV is the result of significant progress for our country and the world against polio. It means we are another step closer to ridding the world of this terrible disease, and we are on a path to provide the best possible protection against this virus to all,” said Honourable Mr Peter Charles Paire O’Neill, Prime Minister of PNG, chief guest to the launch ceremony.

The country attained poliomyelitis-free status in 2000 along with countries in the Western Pacific Region. Although there has been no reports of confirmed measles cases for several years, the country experienced a nationwide outbreak of measles since late 2013 with ongoing transmission through April 2015. The risk for outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases are high resulting from low routine EPI coverage.

Understanding these gaps of immunization and its role as a platform for other health interventions, the National Department of Health, along with its partners, WHO, UNICEF and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance launched a Special Integrated Routine EPI Strengthening Program (SIREP Plus) to introduce the two new vaccines and further strengthen routine immunization in order to protect children’s health.

IPV will be given at 3 months in addition to the third dose of OPV in routine immunization and MR will be targeted to reach children aged 9 months to 15 years. In addition to the new vaccines, other routine immunizations will be provided through SIREP Plus along with Vitamin A and deworming tablets for children. The objectives of these initiative will help accelerate the country’s EPI goals in National Health Plan (2011-2020).

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This article also appears on the Global Immunization Newsletter (GIN), accessible from the link below.