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May 01, 2024 / 20:03

Millions of children in Vietnam protected by vaccination over 40 years: UN agencies

Vietnam has made strides in the past four decades to lower the number of child fatalities after it launched a national immunization program in 1981.

Vaccinations have protected millions of children in Vietnam over the past 40 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF offices in Vietnam said in observance of World Immunization Week (April 24-30). 

 A child gets vaccinated in a national immunization program. Photo: Vncdc

Since Vietnam launched the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), a national immunization program, in 1981, the country has seen a significant decline in the number of children dying from vaccine-preventable causes. The program's goal is to guarantee that every child, everywhere in the country, can receive the life-saving protection of routine immunizations.

“Vietnam’s immunization program has been instrumental in saving children’s lives and alleviating the devastating impact of vaccine-preventable diseases on families, communities and the country as a whole for over 40 years,” said UNICEF Vietnam Representative Rana Flowers.

According to Dr Angela Pratt, WHO Representative in Vietnam, “Vietnam’s success in eliminating some, and dramatically reducing rates of other, vaccine-preventable diseases shows the power of vaccination.”

She stated that the government has led the initiative to attain these outstanding outcomes and has received strong support over a long period of time from health professionals in even the most remote communes, local partners, community-based organizations, local leaders and communities, international development partners, donors, and scientists.

In Vietnam, all children are eligible for free vaccinations under the program. The best and safest approach to shield kids from a wide range of deadly diseases that can be avoided is through immunization.

“Looking forward, we strongly encourage the Government of Vietnam to sustain this tremendous achievement, so that every child has the opportunity to survive, thrive and lead a healthy life,” Rana Flowers shared.

Vaccination is one of humanity's greatest achievements. More children than ever before are expected to live to see their first birthday and beyond thanks to vaccinations, which have prevented almost 154 million deaths worldwide in the last 50 years alone, or more than 3 million deaths annually.

However, Vietnam's regular immunization programs were interrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, just like they were in many other nations. Unvaccinated children have a higher chance of getting dangerous diseases that can be easily avoided with vaccination. High rates of childhood immunization exemptions may also lead to vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

Vietnam has made progress in the last few decades in lowering the number of child fatalities, but these risks pose a threat to that progress. In addition to children who are due for vaccinations, the government must continue to take decisive action and step up efforts to guarantee that all children receive necessary vaccines in a timely manner. This includes children who have missed vaccinations in the previous four years.

“But some of these gains are currently at risk: we must act urgently to close existing immunity gaps and ensure that life-saving vaccines reach every child, in every corner of the country, today and into the future,” Dr Angela Pratt emphasized.