Australia steps in with vaccines for Fijians: envoy

Updated: 2012-07-30 17:05


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The Australian High Commission said here Monday that Australian support for the introduction of three new vaccines into Fiji's health system will help save lives in the Pacific island nation.

Acting Australian High Commissioner Glenn Miles said that two of the new vaccines, Pneumococcal and Rotavirus, will be given to Fiji's newborns from September 2012, while the HPV vaccine will be administered to young girls from 2013. The vaccination program is designed to reduce the incidence of pneumonia, diarrhoea, sepsis and cervical cancer.

Australia's AID agency is providing more than 10 million Fiji dollars (5.71 million U.S. dollars) over the next four years to assist Fiji's Ministry of Health in implementing the vaccination program.

Speaking at the handover ceremony, Miles said, "This is an important milestone in the history of Australian funding to Fiji' s health sector and demonstrates one of Australia's key aid strategies saving lives."

The intention is to administer the Pneumococcal and Rotavirus vaccines to 22,000 babies in Fiji over the next four years, said Miles, adding "in Australia, these safe and effective vaccines have been responsible for a significant reduction in the hospitalization rate of children."

"To put this across more clearly, since the introduction of the Rotavirus vaccine in 2007, about 7,000 hospital admissions have been prevented for Australian children aged between 0 and 5 years, " Miles said."This has meant a record reduction of 70 percent in hospital admissions because of the Rotavirus infection in Australia."

According to the Australian Department for Health, the introduction of the Pneumococcal vaccine has also resulted in a significant reduction of more than 70 percent of hospitalizations from Pneumococcal disease in Australian children aged under 12 months.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine has contributed to a significant decline in cervical abnormalities in women under 20, within six years of the vaccine's introduction in Australia.

"These figures speak for themselves and I have no doubt that we will see similar results in Fiji," Miles said.

The envoy said: "Australia is committed to improving the lives of women and children in Fiji through greater access to maternal and child health services, while being proud to be working with Fiji's Ministry of Health towards achieving that goal."