Infant Mortality has reduced from 118 per 1,000 live births in the seventies to nine per 1,000 live births at present, informed Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Saidi, Minister of Health yesterday at the opening of the first Omani Immunisation Week.
"We are currently studying the possibility of adding more vaccines to the immunisation schedule," Al Saidi pointed out.
Organised by the Ministry of Health represented by the Department of Monitoring and Combating Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health Education and Information, the event kicked off yesterday at Grand Hyatt Hotel in the presence of Dr Hussein bin Abdul Razaq Gezairy, East Mediterranean Regional Director of World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) has achieved significant achievements since it was launched, noted Al Saidi. "However, these achievements have faced major challenges. If we go back to the seventies, there were some endemic diseases which existed in the country. When the programme was launched in 1981, it provided immunisations against six major diseases including tuberculosis, polio, measles, diphtheria, neonatal tetanus and whooping cough. Nowadays, the number of immunisations provided by the programme has touched 11," Al Saidi said.
EPI was launched in 1981 in the Sultanate. A unique defaulter retrieval system was then introduced to complement the programme.
As a result the immunisation coverage increased significantly from 10 per cent in 1981 to over 95 per cent in 1995.
"The immunisation programme has also reflected significantly on the mortality rate of children under the age of five, which reduced by 94 per cent," Al Saidi said.
Speaking at the event, Dr Hussein Gezairy pointed out that Oman is one of the 22 countries of the region participating in this historic initiative, signalling to the world that immunisation is a regional and national priority.
"No child should die from vaccine preventable diseases. This is, in fact, our regional vision. However, we have made great progress in reducing illnesses and deaths.
More people than ever before are being reached with immunisation; 20 countries have maintained their polio-free status; the 90 per cent measles mortality reduction goal has been achieved three years ahead of schedule and an increasing number of countries are introducing new and underused vaccines," Hussein said.
Talking about the situation in Oman, Hussein said: "Oman has demonstrated remarkable success in immunisation as it has sustained routine vaccination coverage above 95 per cent for all antigens since early 1990."
The immunisation week, which will continue till April 30, aims at highlighting the achievements of immunisation programmes in the Sultanate since the 1970s.
The Immunisation Week is being held as part of the first East Mediterranean Immunisation Week organised by the East Mediterranean Regional Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The event in general attempts to create awareness among society of the importance of vaccination to combat infectious diseases.
According to WHO, Vaccination Week in the Eastern Mediterranean Region provides a unique opportunity to revive the region's commitment and increase public awareness on the importance of immunisation through advocacy, education and communication.
A variety of activities will be carried out during the week, including outreach, campaigns, workshops, training sessions, social mobilisation, round tables, exhibitions and media events addressing a wide range of vaccine-related issues.
During the event, Dr Saleh Al Khusaibi spoke of the late professor Musallam Al Bualy and highlighted his contributions in promoting child's health in Oman.
Dr Khalifa Al Maawali highlighted the major developments that occurred due to the efforts done by the Ministry of Health through the immunisation programme. The minister of health has honoured those who took part in the immunisation programme and contributed to its success.
26 April 2010
© Times of Oman 2010