Around 20,000 children in Lalitpur Metropolitan City will be administered a new vaccine against typhoid, one of the common causes of fever among Nepali children. The vaccination programme was launched at Wolkhu Ward Health Post of Lalitpur-11 on Monday.
The new vaccine is more effective and durable than the old one, according to health experts involved with the programme.
Under the programme, children aged between nine months and under 16 from 15 wards of Lalitpur metropolis will be vaccinated as part of a study to assess the impact of preventive vaccination in the fight against typhoid, according to Dr Shrijana Shrestha, dean of Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS).
“We are using this vaccine for the first time to see its effectiveness in minimising the vulnerability among children,” she said, adding that typhoid has been a prevalent illness among the children visiting the hospital. These children will be kept under observation for the next two years to see the effects of the immunisation.
Typhoid, which spread through contaminated food and water, can be controlled through vaccination. However, lack of awareness among common public about hygiene and availability of such vaccines has kept people away from using preventive vaccination, according to Dr Binod L Bajracharya, president of the Nepal Paediatric Society. “We already have had vaccines in the market, but many of them are less effective with short lifespan. Most of them should be repeated over a few years unlike the latest one which lasts almost a lifetime,” said Bajracharya.
According to Dr Bajracharya, Polysaccharide typhoid vaccine has contributed to bringing down the number of typhoid cases in Nepal. However, it can protect children only for the next few years. Beside, the old vaccine could not be given to children under two.
The new conjugate vaccine, which is a recent invention, has already been administered on over two million people in India.
Last October, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that this vaccine could be given to children in countries where typhoid remains a major threat to the public health. “This immunisation is also significant because of the increase in antibiotic resistance and emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Therefore, protecting children through preventive measures like typhoid vaccination is important,” added Dr Shrestha.
The results of the study will be analysed the efficacy of these vaccinations in protecting immunised children from typhoid in comparison to those who did not received the vaccination. The report of the vaccination programme, jointly conducted by the PAHS and the Oxford University, will be forwarded to the government, urging it to include the typhoid vaccination in the national programme. “If the vaccination shows positive results, then we can forward the outcomes to the concerned authorities that can be helpful in policy intervention. The study will determine whether we should include the typhoid vaccine in our national plan and take it throughout the country,” added Dr Shrestha.
Despite its role in mitigating the disease, the typhoid vaccination has not been included in country’s national immunisation programmes. Health experts, who have been lobbying for inclusion of the typhoid vaccination by 2020 in the national programme, say that the country can request the international community for support.
“As these vaccines are expensive, Nepal can seek help for necessary support from donor agencies,” said Dr Bajracharya, suggesting that Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance--an international organisation committed to increasing access to immunisation in poor countries--can be of help to Nepal. Gavi has been extending support to countries like Nepal with per capita less than $1,500 through making funds available for such vaccination initiatives.