Over 14 million children nationwide to be immunized against Japanese Encephalitis [EN/MY]

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One of the largest public health interventions ever conducted in Myanmar, the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination campaign, kicking off today, will help stop this rising and potentially fatal disease among children.

Yangon, 15 November 2017 - With increasing numbers of children across Myanmar suffering from Japanese Encephalitis, the Ministry of Health and Sports, with support from Gavi, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) today launched a nationwide immunization campaign aimed at protecting more than 14 million children and preventing future outbreaks.

In 2016, close to 400 cases of Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne viral infection, were confirmed in Myanmar, doubling the number of cases found the previous year.

“This is the largest public health intervention ever implemented in Myanmar after the 2015 measles and rubella vaccination campaign,” said Dr. Myint Htwe, Union Minister for the Ministry of Health and Sports. “This vaccination campaign showcases our commitment to reduce mortality from diseases that can be prevented.”

The campaign includes two phases, beginning in all schools from November 15-23. Health teams in all States and Regions will visit primary, secondary and high schools run by the Government as well as religious and private institutions and temporary schools in displaced persons camps to immunize children aged 5 to 15.

During the second phase, from 11-20 December, immunization posts will be set up at hospitals, health centers, ward and village administrators’ offices, monasteries and other community locations to reach children aged 9 months to 5 years and those who missed the first round.

“This disease knows no boundaries, so we applaud the Government’s efforts to reach every corner of Myanmar, so that all children, including the most deprived and affected by conflict, those living in displacement camps and remote communities can benefit from this major and potentially life-saving immunization,” said UNICEF’s Representative to Myanmar, Ms June Kunugi.

Mobilization and awareness-raising efforts are already underway through mass and social media channels urging parents, teachers, caregivers and communities to help stop the rising incidences of Japanese Encephalitis by ensuring that all children receive the vaccination.

Also, close to 50 national and international monitors will be deployed across the country during the campaign to support the work of the health staff and ensure as many children as possible are reached.

Japanese Encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease and can affect people of all ages, but children aged from nine months to 15 years are most at risk. Since 2012, cases have been reported in nearly all States and Regions across Myanmar, with particularly high numbers and outbreaks occurring in Yangon, Rakhine, northern Shan and Ayeyawerday. Vaccination is the most effective preventive measure.

Endemic in most of Asia, it is estimated that 68,000 people are infected in the region annually, despite widespread availability of an effective vaccine. An estimated 20-30 percent of infected people die, while 30 percent of survivors can develop serious neurological or physical disabilities, such as hearing and speech loss.

Following this critical campaign, the vaccine will be introduced as a routine part of the immunization schedule for Myanmar, given to children at age nine months alongside the measles-rubella vaccinations.

“Japanese Encephalitis is a health priority in Myanmar. Through this campaign and then the subsequent introduction of the vaccination into the regular immunization schedule, we want to ensure that no child is susceptible,” said WHO Representative to Myanmar Stephan Jost.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and UNICEF are supporting the Government to help plan and roll-out the immunization campaign, having procured all of the vaccines and other supplies and having helped to boost the vital cold-chain system.

UNICEF in Myanmar

UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation.

For more information about UNICEF Myanmar, please visit: https://www.unicef.org/myanmar/Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unicefmyanmar

For more information please contact:

Htet Htet Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, 09250075238, hoo@unicef.org

Macarena Aguilar, Communications Specialist, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, 09429564390 maguilar@unicef.org