The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on December 19 issued a joint statement calling on Vietnamese parents to maintain faith in the quality of childhood immunisations.

Each year in Vietnam, vaccines protect 1.5 million children under1 year of age against a minimum of eight life-threatening childhood diseases.

However, over the past few months some parents have been concerned about media reports that have suggested a link between a number of child deaths or adverse reactions, and vaccinations with the 5-in-1 or pentavalent vaccine.

WHO and UNICEF officials noted that following an investigation by independent international and national experts, no evidence was found to indicate that the quality or safety of pentavalent vaccines has directly or indirectly led to children's deaths following immunisations.

"Whilst every effort is made to ensure the safety of immunisations, when thousands of children are vaccinated on a daily basis, a small number of reports of adverse events following immunisation are to be expected," the statement said.

At least 27 fatalities, along with 43 adverse reactions associated with Quinvaxem in the country, have been recorded since July 2010, according to statistics from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

Additionally, WHO and UNICEF officials noted that, in some cases, children receiving immunisations are suffering from other childhood illnesses, such as pneumonia or diarrhea, or serious congenital diseases that may not have been diagnosed.

On very rare occasions – less than one in a million – an otherwise healthy child could suffer a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine, which requires immediate medical attention.

The Pentavalent vaccine protects children against five life threatening diseases. The chances of dying or suffering from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus type B or Hepatitis B are far greater than any possible side effect from the vaccine, according to experts.

Vague plans

A project jointly run by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health has found shortcomings due to problems in planning and co-ordination, according to officials.

The project, "Child Survival and Development", began last year and will continue until 2016 with technical and financial support worth 5.8 million USD from UNICEF.

It seeks to improve the quality and effectiveness of the national healthcare system to focus on disadvantaged children and women in different provinces and cities.

However, one-year plans have come under criticism as being too vague, creating difficulties for supervising by the project management unit, said Vu Thi Hau, secretary of the project, at a conference in Hanoi.

Additionally, co-ordination was not close enough between different provinces, between the project management unit, UNICEF, and its partners, she said.

Experts from the project management unit proposed that UNICEF set up a detailed plan for next year for the unit and its partners to follow.-VNA