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Brunei child immunisation rate at over 95 per cent

Azlan Othman

With the National Children Immunisation Programme, the Sultanate has achieved and maintained the rate of child immunisation at a level exceeding 95 per cent each year, Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said.

This year, Brunei Darussalam joined World Health Organization (WHO) member countries in celebrating World Immunization Week on April 24-30.

The celebration aims to raise awareness on the importance of vaccines, which can protect every age group from diseases and provide an opportunity to lead a healthy and meaningful life.

Every year, World Immunization Week has a different theme that serves as a main platform to attract the attention of the world’s population on issues related to immunisation.

“This year’s theme ‘Long Life for All’ was chosen with the aim of uniting all walks of life that vaccines enable us to pursue dreams, protect loved ones and live a long and healthy life, Insya Allah,” the minister said.

Vaccination is one of the most important and cost-effective public health interventions in the prevention of diseases, which in turn addresses global health issues. This year’s campaign comes at a very critical time as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted vital health services, including routine immunisations.

In the past two decades, over 1.1 billion children have been immunised, saving four to five million lives each year, while halving child deaths worldwide.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar. PHOTO: MOH

“Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have lost the benefits of a life-saving vaccine,” he said.

The WHO reported that global vaccination coverage declined from 86 per cent in 2019 to 83 per cent in 2020. Some 23 million children under the age of one did not receive the basic vaccine, the highest number since 2009. In 2020, the number of fully unvaccinated children increased by 3.4 million. In addition, 1.6 million girls will not be fully protected from human papillomavirus (HPV) by 2020.

“Alhamdulillah, we are fortunate as citizens and residents of Brunei to receive free vaccination services from the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Ministry of Health (MoH).

“The National Children Immunisation Programme (children aged zero to five) is one of the programmes available at clinics and health centres nationwide. This is a step forward in expanding access to immunisation, especially among infants and children, in addition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2030 and Universal Health Coverage.”

According to a WHO study, the administration of HPV vaccine specifically for girls in Year 7 has been shown to prevent or reduce the risk of cervical cancer as they grow into adulthood.

“In relation to the national mandate, which is based on the provisions under the Infectious Diseases Act 2003 Chapter 47 Section 1, parents or guardians must ensure that their children complete the vaccination schedule to protect against infectious diseases according to Schedule 4 of the act which covers 10 types of diseases – diphtheria, haemophilus influenza B, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio, rubella, tetanus and tuberculosis.

“I advise parents to ensure that their children have received a full immunisation according to the set schedule and use the facilities provided by the government through health centres and clinics.

“On the ongoing commitment from the Government of His Majesty, the National Children Immunisation Programme, especially under the immunisation programme for the high risk and public healthcare have made the Sultanate one of the countries declared free of malaria by the WHO in 1987; free from polio in 2000; free from measles in 2015 and free from rubella in November 2018.

“In the context of COVID-19, the people and residents of Brunei are fortunate as the government implemented the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme from April 3, 2021 in stages according to the phases outlined in the Vaccination Strategy of Brunei Darussalam.

“As of April 23, some 1,107,691 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered nationwide – 94.5 per cent of the population have received at least two doses and 64.1 per cent a booster dose. The National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme for adolescents aged 12-17 and children aged five-11 have shown encouraging response,” the minister said.

He added, “I hope this year’s World Immunization Week will encourage citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam to value health, be more responsible in ensuring proper vaccination to achieve ‘Long Life for All’, to realise the MoH’s vision of ‘Together Towards Healthy People’ and achieve Brunei Vision 2035 of High Quality of Life of the Population.”