A vaccination week was launched on April 24 by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation in Vietnam to raise awareness among parents or caregivers of the importance of vaccinations in disease prevention.

The week, initiated by the WHO for the first time in Vietnam , will also mobilise resources and secure political support for immunisation programmes.

"Hundreds of thousands of children and women have been protected from diseases in Vietnam thanks to the efforts of the National Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI) during the past years," said Deputy Minister of Health Trinh Quan Huan.

"EPI needs strong political commitment both in financial and human terms and the participation of all ministries, sectors and communities from central to local levels in order to lower and eliminate the transmission of dangerous diseases," he said.

Vaccination activities need the support of a strong and effective health system. Priorities are given to mountainous and remote areas and to strengthening community communication, added Huan.

During the week of April 25-30, activities will focus on providing information to parents and caregivers. Events to attract community and media will be offered to increase visibility and the number of national and local media stories on infant immunisation.

Started in 1985, the EPI now has provided free vaccines for 11 transmitted diseases to millions of children under five and women nationwide. The under-five children vaccination rate has reached more than 90 percent continuously in recent years.

Vietnam eliminated wild polio in 2000 and tetanus in 2005. And measles is expected to be eliminated in Vietnam by 2012./.