With the cases of new diseases being reported, the demand for antigen for immunization against them has been growing. While there are 27 types of vaccines available worldwide, Nepalese get only ten antigens, exposing them to serious health threats.
The multi-year immunization programme endorsed by the Ministry of Health and Population has targeted to add four more basic vaccines to its vault by 2016.
These include Pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccination which are remedies to pneumonia and diarrhoea, respectively.
However, the major challenge for the stakeholders is the cost that will swell after additional vaccines are introduced. At present, over 60 percent of the total immunization cost is born by donors while the government share of the expenditure is limited to 40 percent.
The government has made efforts to explore alternatives for the financial sustainability of the expanded immunization programme. As an initiative, the government is working on creating the Immunization Trust Fund (ITF), which will raise funds from the government, donors and corporate agencies.
Recently, the Ministry of Health and Population endorsed a regulation to initiate the process for setting up the fund. “It’s the duty of the government to maintain the ongoing immunization programme with its own might. We may not always get support from donor organizations,” said Dr. Shyam Upreti, the chief of the Immunization Division under the Department of Health. Therefore, the fund will be used as a sustainable source for financing the immunization programme in the coming day.s
After the ITF comes to effect, there will be one-door policy for the immunization programme. The Interim Constitution guarantees people’s right to health and immunization.
According to Upreti, various internationally tested vaccines have not been adopted in Nepal due to the lack of adequate funds. The vaccines being used in the country target children, with no measures for the immunization of elderly people. The annual cost of immunization at present is Rs. 1.6 billion – Rs. 3,000 per child. It will increase significantly with the introduction of four new antigens possibly by 2016.
Immunization has a pivotal role in reducing under-five mortality to 38 and infant deaths to 32 per 1,000 live births by 2015, as envisioned by the Millennium Development Goals in Health.