Illustrative image (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam has been free of polio since 2000 and tetanus at birth since 2005 thanks to locally-made vaccines that have been used in the nationwide expanded immunisation programme, said Duong Thi Hong, deputy chief of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Hong told the Vietnam News Agency that the programme, which has been carried out since 1985, has helped significantly reduced cases of diphtheria, whooping cough, Japanese encephalitis and measles.

According to the official, ten out of 12 types of vaccines used in the programme are locally made.

All the vaccines must be licensed by the Health Ministry and go through strict testing in order to ensure that they are safe and effective, Hong said.

She added that the World Health Organisation has recently granted the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) certificate to Vietnam, recognising that made-in-Vietnam vaccines meet international standards.

Hong, however, pointed to a spate of challenges hindering the work such as the low immunisation coverage among mountainous residents and falling international donations.

The official called on the Government and authorities at all levels to pour more investment into the programme to meet public demand for vaccines.

Vaccines against serious diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea caused by the Rota virus have yet to be included in the programme, she said, adding the increasing demand for new-generation vaccines also remains a challenge.

Regarding the present trend towards paying for more expensive imported vaccines in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the official said that all vaccines used in the national programme and private services have to be licensed by the Health Ministry.

The programme has benefited more than 1.5 million children nationwide since it was launched 30 years ago.

Children are vulnerable to dangerous diseases, she said, noting that vaccinations are the most effective way of preventing them.

The national campaign aims to raise its coverage among the community in 2016 while increasing the quality of inoculations and access to vaccines in remote and far-flung areas.

Next year, Vietnam will offer more polio vaccines to join global efforts to erase the disease, she said.-VNA