Site visit to Northern Mindanao Medical Center to Observe Hepatitis B Vaccination activities in Commemoration of World Hepatitis Day
Dr Shin Young-soo
World Health Organization Regional Director for the Western Pacific
Honourable Secretary of Health, Dr Ona, and DISTINGUISHED Officials from the Department of Health,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
It is a pleasure to be here at the Northern Mindanao Medical Center to see first-hand the important work being done to prevent childhood hepatitis B infections.
With an average of over 2000 deliveries per year, the Center has saved hundreds of infants from lifelong hepatitis B infection since the start of the birth dose vaccination programme in 2007.
In recognition, I offer my congratulations to the management and staff of the hospital – and to their colleagues in the Department of Health – on this splendid achievement.
I have witnessed personally the terrible consequences that hepatitis B infection can have on people, families, friends and communities.
As a doctor in my home country of the Republic of Korea, I often saw the cancer ward packed with patients with liver cancer.
Thanks to the hepatitis B vaccine, there has since been extraordinary progress in reducing disease and early death related to chronic infection.
And the future looks even brighter as vaccination programmes will continue to improve and generations of young people will be protected from hepatitis B infection and disease.
The Western Pacific Region has 28% of the world’s population but over 50% of the world’s cases of hepatitis B.
There are about 900 deaths in our Region each day due to chronic hepatitis B infection.
For this reason, all countries in the Region have agreed to reduce the rate of childhood hepatitis B infection to less than 2% by 2012, down from 8% in the pre-vaccine era.
We have seen tremendous success with these efforts — 27 of the 36 countries and areas have likely reached this milestone.
That leaves nine countries and areas that need to have higher vaccination coverage in order to reduce childhood infections to less than 2%.
The Philippines is one of these nine priority countries.
Although immunization targets have not yet been met, the Philippines has demonstrated a positive trend of progress and tremendous commitment to improve matters.
· That commitment is shown by the model programme for integrating hepatitis B vaccination into essential newborn care.
· It is shown by the fact that the Government of the Philippines secures 100% of funds for procurement of hepatitis B vaccine rather than relying on donor support for funds
· And it is shown by the fact that a few weeks ago President Aquino signed the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act.
The President himself announced that all infants should be given hepatitis B vaccine within 24 hours of birth.
Today, we will observe and recognize the important collaboration between Maternal and Newborn Care and Immunization programmes – a collaboration that will help bring the Philippines closer to reaching Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.
The timing of recognizing the efforts of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center and the Department of Health towards preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B is fitting as we prepare to celebrate the first World Hepatitis Day on 28 July.
This is the inaugural year for World Hepatitis Day and it is one of only six UN-sanctioned world health days.
This is a genuine display of the priority that has been given to preventing hepatitis globally.
I would once again like to congratulate the Northern Mindanao Medical Center and the Department of Health for sending children out into the world, free of the risk of lifelong infection with the hepatitis B virus.
Thank you also to everyone involved in organizing and hosting this visit.
The hard work that has gone into this is sincerely appreciated.