Afghanistan ensures safe passage of life-saving vaccines

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Afghan health ministry shows commitment to immunisation by opening critical storage facility at central airport

Vaccine store inaugurated by government officials and UNICEF acting representative Dr. Sherin Varkey at Kabul international airport

Vaccine store inaugurated by government officials and UNICEF acting representative Dr. Sherin Varkey at Kabul international airport.
Credit: UNICEF Afghanistan/2015/Mahdy Mehraeen.

Kabul, Afghanistan, 27 October 2015 – As humanitarian organisations responded to Afghanistan’s earthquake this week, the Government underlined its commitment to ensuring no interruptions in the flow of life-saving vaccines by inaugurating a special storage facility at Kabul airport.

The new facility, which guarantees safekeeping of vaccines before they are transported to a network of immunisation centres, represents a critical step in the Health Ministry’s plans to strengthen cold chain management across Afghanistan.

Kabul airport represents the main point of entry for the 10 types of vaccines that Afghanistan purchases overseas, but new consignments are often held up – either because of customs clearance or security issues at their final destination.

Equipped with standard cold equipment to keep vaccines at the right temperature and a back-up generator in case of power shortages, the new storage facility ensures two-three months supply of routine vaccines can remain in transit at the airport at any one time.

“This is a crucial first step for ensuring quality of vaccines once the vaccine shipments arrive in the country,” said Afghan Health Minister, Dr. Ferozudin Feroz, speaking at the facility’s inauguration.

Vaccine stores at the airport act as a store for transit as well as a back up facility for national level vaccine stores,” added Minister Feroz.

Afghanistan’s Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI) currently delivers 10 vaccines through a national routine immunisation system that relies on 34 provincial vaccine stores and almost 1,500 service delivery centres. The vaccines provide protection against 10 diseases including tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and Haemophilus influenzae type b, measles, neonatal tetanus and poliomyelitis.

The pentavalent, pneumococcal and inactivated polio vaccines were all introduced with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi also helps fund measles campaigns in Afghanistan.

 

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