Kyrgyzstan finds one vaccine is better than five

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Kyrgyz doctors initial reluctance to administer pentavalent vaccine turned out to be the vaccine's greatest strength

When Kyrgyz doctors first started using the pentavalent vaccine in 2009, officials in the Central Asian nation's health ministry noticed immunisation coverage rates were going down.

"One vaccination is better than five. It's less traumatic for the children and less time for the doctors." 

Olga Safonova, Deputy Head of the Ministry's Republic Centre for Immunoprophylaxis

 "The doctors were not vaccinating because they were afraid to give five antigens simultaneously," says Olga Safonova, Deputy Head of the Ministry's Republic Centre for Immunoprophylaxis.

Vaccine's greatest strength

Training quickly resolved the problem and the doctors' initial fears turned out to be the vaccine's greatest strength.

A single vaccination protects against five infectious diseases - diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB), and hepatitis B.

"One vaccination is better than five," Olga says. "It's less traumatic for the children and less time for the doctors," she adds.

Primary care

With a population of 5.3 million and noted for successful reforms to boost its primary care, the Kyrgyz Republic has 95 percent coverage with the pentavalent vaccine, according to WHO and UNICEF.

The health impact of the pentavalent vaccine is not immediately obvious, because the landlocked, mountainous republic was already immunising against four of the five diseases.

So the most obvious immediate effect is likely to be the cost, an important factor with GDP expected to shrink 3.5 percent in 2010 following political instability.

Economically advantageous

"It's economically advantageous for our country," Olga says. "It would be more expensive if we bought the vaccines separately," she adds.

Having a single vaccine instead of several also saves on transport costs, labour and other materials such as needles.

New vaccine makers

Meanwhile, high levels of country demand from GAVI-eligible countries are attracting new vaccine makers to the market and bringing pentavalent prices down by almost a third to an expected US$ 2.58 in 2011 from US$ 3.65 per dose in 2004.

If fully funded between 2011 and 2015, the GAVI Alliance expects to support the immunisation of some 230 million children in about 60 different countries.

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