Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health completed quick repairs to damaged cold chain equipment on 15 health facilities on Harold-affected Pentecost and Santo Islands meaning that 800 children aged 0-5 were able to access lifesaving vaccines immediately.
“Immunisation is one of the most cost effective and successful public health interventions known to date. However, without proper storage and handling of vaccines, it will become less potent or not strong enough to ensure children are protected from preventable illness,” stated the Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, Len Tarivonda.
This is why for Ministry of Health, together with the support of partners, including UNICEF, one of the first priorities post cyclone Harold was to make quick repairs to damaged cold chain equipment. This allowed the immunisation programme to continue, although the repairs are temporary with permanent fixes planned.
Effective cold chain systems require efficient vaccine storage, handling and management to maintain vaccines under strict temperature control between 2 degree and 8 degree C (for almost all vaccines). However, despite the achievements risks to children receiving all vital vaccines.
Director Tarivonda stated, “Our teams were on the ground within days post Harold to assess and carry out temporary fixes to damaged fridges. This ensured that re-stocking of vaccines in affected facilities on Penama, Sanma and Malampa provinces could happen right away”.
Re-stocking of vaccines was carried out immediately after the cold chain systems were up and running throughout affected health facilities of Penama, Sanma and Malampa Provinces. This meant that immunisation services including other health outreach services were provided for more than 800 children aged 0-5 years old in affected areas of Pentecost, Santo/Malo and Ambrym Islands. Restocking of the ‘Pikinini Helt Buk’ as well as other’ child health registers in all the damaged health facilities accompanied this.
While this is part of the immediate response two-months post Harold, the Ministry of Health’s National Expanded Programme on Immunisation together with partners continue work to ensure full recovery of the entire cold chain system through the affected provinces.
Parents and caregivers of children on affected islands are encouraged to take their children to the health facility nearest to them for their vaccines as per schedule.
CAPTION: One-year-old Salome and her mother hold the certificate showing she has received all her vaccines up to 12-months, after receiving her measles and rubella vaccine in Baie Barrier, south east Pentecost, Vanuatu. ©UNICEF Pacific/2020/Shing