22 May 2008
The Department of Health is to introduce two additional vaccines to reduce and prevent cases of pneumonia and diarrhoea, two major causes of death among South African children.
“Building on the success of our immunisation programme with current coverage of more than 85%, South Africa is making arrangements to introduce in the public health sector two additional vaccines, Rotarix and Prevnar, which we expect will have a significant impact in reducing the cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia and related deaths,” Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said.
She was speaking on behalf of South Africa at the 61st World Health Assembly currently under way in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and HIV as the five main causes of death among children aged between one month and five years, contributing to more than half of all child deaths.
Tshabalala-Msimang told the delegation that because of good immunisation programme, South Africa has been able to eliminate polio and prevent death from measles.
“The programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV is available in 90% of the public health facilities and a new prevention of mother-to-child treatment regimen, which includes dual antiretroviral therapy, is being implemented and expanded,” she said.
Dual antiretroviral therapy is a combination of AZT and Nevirapine, which is administered in the place of Nevirapine mono-therapy.
Although a decision has been taken to explore the introduction of the two vaccines, she emphasised that access to new vaccines remained a major challenge due to their high costs.
“In line with the global commitment to reduce child mortality, South Africa urges the relevant agencies including WHO, UN Children’s Fund and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi Alliance) to assist countries in increasing access to these vaccines by amongst others making them more affordable,” Tshabalala-Msimang said.