31 Jan 2011

Vanuatu babies being treated with new five-in-one vaccine

7:41 pm on 31 January 2011

Health services in Vanuatu have begun administering a five-in-one vaccine which will halve the number of injections received by new born babies.

The Pentavalent vaccine protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza type B, and is being administered to babies at six weeks of age, again at ten weeks and then at 14 weeks.

The Director of Public Health Dr Len Tarivonda says previously babies were given at least two separate injections which only immunised them against four of the diseases.

He says the new vaccine cuts the total number of injections from six to three.

"And what we're really doing is really adding a new vaccine onto the existing four, which is a vaccine against haemophilus influenza type b, which is really a common cause of pneumonia and meningitis in children. So what happens now is that instead of having two or three different injections when a baby comes to be vaccinated, they've actually combined the existing four with a new one - Hepatitis B."

Dr Len Tarivonda says the NGO, the Japan Committee for Vaccines, is contributing 600 thousand US dollars to help fund the vaccine programme over the next four years.