Monrovia — New equipment will help government expand vaccine coverage nationwide
UNICEF has officially handed over 15 generators to the Government of Liberia to help ensure all children are immunized with vaccines that have been properly and safely stored.
Procured with funds from the GAVI Alliance, the generators will bolster the capacity of health facilities in 13 counties to store vaccines at correct temperatures.
The donation comes as Liberia prepares to add at least two new vaccines to its national immunization schedule.
"The Government of Liberia is working toward the day when no Liberian child will die of a vaccine-preventable illness," said Deputy Minister for Administration Matthew Flomo, who accepted the generators on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare at a ceremony on 4 June at JFK Memorial Hospital.
"These generators put us one step closer to realizing that dream by ensuring we can keep our vaccines safe and effective."
With support from UNICEF and other partners, the Government of Liberia guarantees all children less than one year old access to six free vaccines through its Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI).
These vaccines, imported by UNICEF for the government, protect against common childhood diseases like pneumonia, measles and polio.
Over the next nine months, Liberia intends to add the rotavirus vaccine and the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to its EPI schedule. It will also pilot the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine in Bong and Nimba counties.
As Liberia is heavily dependent on generators for reliable electricity, the introduction of these new vaccines would strain existing power supplies. The new generators will help considerably in maintaining the viability of all vaccines.
"Ensuring all children are immunized is one way Liberia can continue to reduce its under-five mortality rate," said UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett.
"But without a functioning cold chain to keep those vaccines at the right temperatures, Liberia's immunization programme will not achieve its objectives."
Both Deputy Minister Flomo and Mr. Yett stressed that the generators need to be properly maintained in order to ensure that the target group of more than 155,000 Liberian children under one continue to receive vaccines.
In Liberia, approximately one quarter of deaths of children under five are due to measles and pneumonia, both vaccine-preventable diseases.
Bong and Grand Gedeh counties will receive two high capacity 100 kva generators each and will serve as regional vaccine storage sites.
With larger quantities of EPI vaccines in these counties, the government can drastically cut down the time needed to restock vaccine stores in counties far from Monrovia, where all restock requests are now processed.
The central EPI office in Monrovia also received one 100 kva generator to support the introduction of the new vaccines.
The remaining 10 counties each received one 20 kva generator. Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties did not receive any generators as they had been previously provided with equipment.