KICUKIRO - Rwanda has received a consignment of Prevnar Pneumococcal Vaccine worth about US$32 million (Approx. Rwf 18bn). The vaccine will be used to immunise over 1.3 million children in the country against pneumonia and other Pnuemococcol diseases like Meningitis.
The vaccine was donated by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals through United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI).
Receiving the first of the two consignments of the drugs at Kigali International Airport, the Minister of Health Dr. Richard Sezibera revealed that the vaccine will help reduce cases of infant mortality which account for over 24 percent of deaths caused by preventable diseases in the country.
“I thank our partners USAID, UNICEF and GAVI for considering Rwanda for this expensive vaccine initially used in developed countries. It will help the government of Rwanda realise the target of keeping immunisation rates above 95 percent.”
According to Sezibera, the government intends to include this leading vaccine against preventable diseases in the national routine immunisation programme and will be administered to children under 5 beginning this April.
“We are going to embark on a national sensitisation programme to inform mothers about the vaccine and by April, we will roll out on a national immunisation campaign, we expect to maintain immunisation rates above 95 percent, ” added Sezibera.
The vaccine will be dispatched directly to the Ministry of Health Cold Room from where it will be distributed to health centres countrywide.
During the ceremony to hand over the drugs, the UN Resident Coordinator, Aurelien Agbenonci, noted that Rwanda is the first African GAVI-eligible country to be recommended to receive the drugs in 2009 following good performance in its national immunisation programmes.
Over 80 percent of Rwandan children are immunised against the eight killer diseases which include measles and polio.
“The arrival of this vaccine is an historical occasion for the country. Rwanda is the first GAVI-eligible country, the other being Gambia, that currently has in place a vaccination coverage and a cold chain system to deliver such a vaccine to its children,” said Agbenonci.
Pneumococcol diseases affect both children and adults and remains the leading cause of illness and deaths worldwide.
Sezibera noted that the vaccine will give children going for immunisation an extra prick while those who have already completed their immunisation will be required to return for the Prevar Vaccine.
Only South Africa has used the vaccine known to be the most expensive in child vaccines with each child immunised at a cost of US $20.
Another shipment worth about US $15m will follow. The ceremony was attended by UN, USAID and Ministry of Health officials.
An estimated 1.3 children under five will be covered.