The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Vanuatu signed agreements for a grant and a loan to fund the introduction of new vaccines in Vanuatu through the ADB-supported System Strengthening for Effective Coverage of New Vaccines in the Pacific Project.
The agreements were signed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Management Mr. Gaetan Pikioune and the Regional Director of ADB’s Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office Ms. Emma Fan.
“Vanuatu, like many Pacific countries, is vulnerable to imported diseases and other regional health security threats,” said the Director General of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management Mr. Letlet August. “We embrace this project, which represents progress towards universal health in keeping with Vanuatu’s Health Sector Strategy 2017–2020.”
The project adopts a regional approach to strengthening critical components of health systems for improved immunization outcomes by introducing three vaccines in four Pacific island countries: Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
More than 580,000 people across the four countries will benefit from the project, which will improve overall immunization coverage rates and support greater access to, and efficiency of, primary health services.
“Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions, and a cornerstone of good public health,” said ADB Director for Social Sectors and Public Management Sector Division for the Pacific Ms. Emma Veve. “The project will support the government in delivering new vaccines to reduce the incidences of pneumonia and diarrhea in children and protect young girls against the human papilloma virus to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.”
Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death in women in the Pacific. Screening programs and awareness in most Pacific countries are lacking. The 2016 Pacific Islands Forum Meeting identified addressing cervical cancer as a regional priority for the Pacific. Pneumonia and diarrhea, meanwhile, are among the top three causes of mortality in children under 5 globally.
Innovations in the project’s design include pooled procurement across the countries through UNICEF’s global medical procurement scheme, a phased cofinancing of vaccines with countries to promote effective budget absorption of costs, and regular regional exchanges throughout the duration of the project. Country ownership will also be key in providing effective immunization services and access to affordable prices for quality vaccines.