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Opening Remarks by Mr. Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative at National Meeting Event in observance of the World Immunization Week 2015

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Date: Friday, 24 April 2015
Event: National Meeting Event in observance of the World Immunization Week 2015
Venue: Conventional Meeting Center, 3/2 Square, Hoang Van Thu Str., Bac Giang City, Bac Giang Province.

His Excellency, Vu Duc Dam, Deputy Prime Minister of Viet Nam;
Her Excellency, Professor Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health;
Representatives from the central Government, line ministries and provinces;
UN colleagues, representatives of development partners;
Representatives of the media,
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Boys and Girls;

I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the United Nations to help launch World Immunization Week 2015 in Viet Nam.

Each year, across the world, we celebrate the remarkable success and achievements of immunization.
Few interventions have had a greater impact on the global public than vaccines.
Few development programmes today offer a more cost effective way to save lives …. To strengthen societies … and to shape the future of human health.

But this work is far from finished.
WHO and UNICEF estimate that across the world, some 1.5 million children still die each year from diseases that vaccines could easily prevent.

Here in Viet Nam, over the past 27 years, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) has saved an estimated 42,000 lives and prevented more than 6.7 million cases of serious childhood diseases.
But we must also seize this important week as a key opportunity to improve immunization services even further.

Our goal is that all Vietnamese children are routinely protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Ladies and Gentlemen
Now, more than ever we must work together to close the immunization gap.
In our region, the theme of this year’s World Immunization Week is “Vaccination is every one’s job. Protect your community”.

That means it’s not just the government’s job, but it’s also your job, and mine.
In 2014 about 51,000 Vietnamese children under one were not being fully immunized, and about 518,000 children missed this year’s measles rubella campaign.

Many of the missed children are from poor ethnic minority households in rural and mountainous areas or from poor, migrant families living in urban areas.

But some richer parents in the bigger cities also decided to wait longer for private vaccination.
This exposed their children to the risk of being infected by life threatening diseases – including measles.

As we saw with the terrible measles outbreak in 2014 it is vital that all parents complete all recommended doses of vaccines strictly adhering to the national immunization schedule.
And for this we must use every means possible to restore parent's confidence in immunization.

The United Nations strongly believes in the power of vaccines.

In Viet Nam, UNICEF and WHO work tirelessly alongside other GAVI Alliance partners to support countries to introduce effective new vaccines.

For example, last year we helped Viet Nam introduce a nationwide Measles and Rubella campaign for children 1 to 14 years old that reached more than 19 million children.

This will help accelerate Vietnam’s goal of eliminating measles in the near future.

Viet Nam also maintained a 97% rate of routine immunization to children in 2014.
Both these remarkable achievements have only been possible due to sustained Government commitment, the support of partners and the tireless efforts of front line health workers, often working in difficult circumstances.  

On the technical front, WHO and UNICEF will continue to ensure that vaccines procured internationally meet minimum standards, and that Viet Nam’s National Regulatory Authority plays its vital role.

After 14 years of preparation the National Regulatory Authority now fully functional, according to a rigorous assessment by WHO experts.

Viet Nam’s domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity is also scaling-up, and with vigorous oversight, the NRA now meets international standards.

This presents Viet Nam with a major opportunity to join the global vaccine export market, which will strengthen the country’s health system even further.

So Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we celebrate World Immunization Week in 2015 we must ask ourselves: what will it take to reach the un-reached child and save lives?

First, we must integrate immunization with other health services to reduce the missed opportunities, organize more outreach immunizations sessions, and provide health education on the importance of immunization and other healthy behaviors.  

Second, the immunization delivery system should be further strengthened to improve vaccine delivery.
We must reach every child with the right vaccine at the right place at the right time and in the right condition.

Thirdly we must ensure that adequate resources are allocated to immunization, which is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government.

I would like to acknowledge the strong commitment of Government of Viet Nam to allocate sustained budget every year to the national EPI.

And, last but not least, we must build up public trust in immunization.

We must use every means to restore parent’s confidence in vaccines, and encourage them to play their part by bringing their children to sessions, adhering to the national schedule.

I am very pleased to see that the Ministry of Health is helping to increase awareness and understanding, openly sharing information, and opening up public discussion on immunization safety and quality.
The media also has a vital role to play in highlighting the importance and benefits of immunization for the benefit of all children in Viet Nam.

For the past 27 years, WHO and UNICEF has worked in close partnership with Viet Nam’s EPI programme.
Going forward we want to strengthen our cooperation and support the Government even further to reach every child with safe and effective vaccines.

It is time for us to take action and close the immunization gap.

Every girl and boy in Viet Nam should have an equal chance of a good start and a healthy life.

I wish you a successful event and thank you very much for your kind attention.

Xin Cảm Ơn!

Mr. Youssouf Abdel-Jelil
UNICEF Representative
On behalf of UN in Viet Nam.