Vietnam Country Program

Vaccines and immunization

Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective health interventions in history. Each year, vaccines save 2.5 million lives worldwide, yet 1.7 million children still die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Children receive JE vaccinations after the opening ceremonies of the campaign in Xieng Khouang province, Laos. PATH/Aaron Joel Santos

With PATH’s help, Vietnam is working to realize the lifesaving benefits of vaccines and reduce the number of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases. In the past, we have developed an action plan and national guidelines for expanding the use of the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine, supported Vietnam to introduce the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer in Vietnam and evaluate strategies for this, and worked to strengthen the cold chain in transporting and storing vaccines. We are now supporting Vietnam to develop domestically produced vaccines and, in partnership with the National Expanded Program on Immunization (NEPI), continue to work to increase the quality, safety, and efficiency of Vietnam’s immunization services and expand access to existing vaccines.

Expanding access to lifesaving tools

Up to 5 million people around the world suffer from influenza each year, and most of the 250,000 to 500,000 influenza deaths occur in developing countries. Most vaccines that could provide lifesaving protection against influenza are made in industrialized countries, leaving populations in less developed countries more vulnerable to a pandemic influenza strain.

With support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, we are working with the Vietnamese government, vaccine manufacturers, and other stakeholders to improve local manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccines and test potential vaccine candidates for seasonal and pandemic influenza. Locally produced vaccines could help Vietnam protect its population in the event of a future influenza pandemic.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in children worldwide. In Vietnam, rotavirus infections account for more than half of annual hospitalized diarrhea cases among children under five years of age; and 2,900 to 5,400 deaths of children under five years of age are caused by rotavirus annually. Rotavirus vaccines are the best tool available for protecting children against severe and deadly diarrhea. However, imported rotavirus vaccines are very expensive, around US$45 for one shot, and are difficult to store and transport while ensuring they remain viable.

The Vietnamese government, encouraged by the success of other locally produced vaccines over the past decades, and in an effort to promote self-reliance and provide affordable supply for its own population, has made a policy priority to accelerate the production of the rotavirus vaccine. PATH is now providing technical assistance to Vietnamese vaccine manufacturers to develop a reliable and affordable rotavirus vaccine that does not need to be frozen but can be stored at 4°C.

Ensuring solutions are within reach

PATH has been supporting NEPI to develop a system for an Immunization Registry and Vaccine Tracking system since 2011. “ImmReg” includes tailor-made software to track immunization and a mobile health (mHealth) component to connect health workers and caregivers. It helps to improve the quality of immunization data, significantly reduces the time required for health workers to plan for and report on immunization, and leads to improved immunization coverage and on-time vaccination rates for children. By 2014, this system had been rolled out to all 164 communes in Ben Tre province. In 2015, PATH was awarded the prestigious GSK and Save the Children Healthcare Innovation Award to work with the Vietnam Ministry of Health and Viettel, one of the biggest telecom companies in Vietnam, to upgrade and integrate this system into the National Health Information System across the country. The system is being rolled out by national, regional, and provincial levels of health agencies across all 63 provinces in Vietnam in 2017.

Finally, PATH continues to support governments across the Mekong region to introduce the Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine into routine immunization programs. Transmitted by mosquitoes endemic to South East Asia, JE kills around 30 percent of those infected, and leaves the majority of survivors with serious and lifelong neurological damage. With PATH support, governments in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar continue to work towards access to JE vaccines for all children. In 2015, PATH and our partners helped Laos achieve countrywide JE coverage for the first time.