The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with its parts has on Thursday January 16th commissioned two refrigerated trucks for the delivery of vaccines and other temperature sensitive supplies at the Central Medical Drug Stores, New England Ville in Freetown.
While addressing partners before commissioning the trucks, the Honorable Health Minister, Prof. Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie said that they were commissioning the 2 refrigerators as a step in actualizing Universal Health Coverage and better cold chain system, starting from storage and distribution of vaccines as one can’t talk of vaccine potency and immunization without talking of an effect cold chain system.
Dr. Wurie continued that they had already distributed 200 solar refrigerators to health facilities across the country and have also distributed motorbikes to all the District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and have also improve the cold rooms at national and district levels to scale up immunization services in the country for the health and survival of children, especially in remote communities. “With the 2 refrigerated vehicles, I believe the cold chain is now complete” Health Minister added.
Dr. Wurie applauded the Expanded Programme on Immunization (CH/EPI) for the gains already made in 2019 as they have achieved 90% coverage for Pentavelant Vaccine, commonly called Penta 3. He however urged the EPI/CH Programme for 100% coverage, which he was optimistic the programme would achieve in 2020 and the coming year.
He further said that as the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and partners are looking into Vaccines Preventable Diseases, they should also pay some attention to the nutritional status of children and their mothers as poor nutrition can be a contributing factor for ill health in children. “There was no outbreak of vaccines preventable diseases in 2019, and I believe there are some issues in the area of child nutrition. Hon. Minister Noted.
Programme Manager, Child Health and Expanded Programme on Immunization stated that the donated refrigerated trucks is one of many supports from GAVI, through UNICEF & WHO as part of a five year Health Strengthening Grant which will end in 2021, adding that the GAVI grant is consisted of other EPI related activities such as the distributed solar refrigerators, cold rooms improvement, motor bikes among others.
Dr. Tom Continued that UNICEF is also providing technical support to the Programme on Supply Chain Management.
He also noted that they were also planning to focus on strengthening outreach services in Peripheral Health Units (PHU) across the country to improve the coverage of fully immunized children and they were also going to embark on the printing and distribution of Under-Fives Card as the last Demographic and Health Survey notes that the coverage is much higher for children with vaccination documented in their cards (U-5 card), due to difficulty they have in recalling the vaccine antigens that they would have received.
The EPI Manager pointed out that the main objective of the refrigerated trucks is to ensure continuity in the integrity of the cold chain system, ensuring that vaccines are kept safe and potent from the point of storage fit for distribution and use by the beneficiaries. “The potency of vaccines administered is reflected in the fact that this year (2019) we have not recorded any outbreak of measles or other vaccine preventable diseases”, Dr. Boasted.
UNICEF Country Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh stated that in a tropical country like Sierra Leone, Cold Chain is a vital part of the health system and helps to preserve vaccines and other medical supplies.
He continued that UNICEF is aware of the challenges faced by the CH/EPI Programme, noting that key among them was the delivery of EPI supplies to districts and health facilities across the country in good condition and stated that the 2 refrigerated trucks were provided through GAVI grant to address some of the challenges in the storage and distribution of EPI Vaccines and other refrigerated items.
Dr. Briamoh congratulated the MoHS for the introduction of new vaccines in the health system and the gains made in immunization coverage, which he noted has been in the increase over the years.
He expressed WHO’s commitment to continue support the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the government to save the lives of children in sierra Leone, as it is unacceptable for children to die from vaccine preventable diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative also commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for gains made in immunization coverage and stated that the refrigerated trucks are timely and was optimistic that the trucks will be properly utilized and maintained. He also expressed WHO’s commitment to support the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the government to prevent diseases and ensure good health.