MANILA: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Samoa recently signed a grant agreement to provide support to the health sector. The agreement would help to strengthen the country’s immunization program and procure cold chain equipment to safely transport vaccines. The program was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the regional System Strengthening for Effective Coverage of New Vaccines in the Pacific Project.
The $1.4 million grant would support routine immunization strengthening, with pending additional financing of up to $3.7 million for vaccines through the Vaccine Independence Initiative. “The consequences of the recent measles epidemic in Samoa have highlighted the need to strengthen immunization programs in the country,” said the Ministry of Health’s Director-General, Dr Take Naseri. “We look forward to participating in this Pacific regional project, which represents a positive step towards protecting the health of families in Samoa and across the region.”
Samoa had joined Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu under the project, which was supported by UNICEF, financed by ADB, and implemented by the four Ministries of Health through loans and grants worth $25.1 million. Over 580,000 people across the four countries would benefit from the project, helping to improve overall immunization coverage rates, and support greater efficiency of primary health services.
The ADB’s assistance would finance investments to strengthen country immunization programs within the broader health system, while pooling resources for the procurement of rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines though an established UNICEF supply facility. These vaccines would provide a broader range of protection to girls and children.
“The project will strengthen the immunization programs in the target countries through a series of investments including clinical training, program management, equipment upgrades to ensure vaccines can be appropriately stored and transported, and better reporting systems to improve the effectiveness of immunization programs, and overall performance of health systems,” said ADB Health Specialist for the Pacific, Ms Inez Mikkelsen-Lopez.
UNICEF Pacific Representative, Mr Sheldon Yett said, “We are proud to be partnering with the ADB and the Government of Samoa on this project to ensure that vaccines reach those families and children who are most vulnerable and need them most in Samoa. Vaccines save lives and are vital to protect children against these preventable diseases.”
The project would support the government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its immunization program following the recent measles outbreak. It would also deliver new vaccines to reduce the incidence of pneumonia and diarrhea in children and protect young girls against HPV to minimize the risk of cervical cancer, which is a leading cause of premature mortality in women in the Pacific.