In anticipation of growing vaccination demands, many multinational corporations are supporting community-based public health programmes in Vietnam as a way to expand sustainably across the country.
On December 20, Zuellig Pharma, one of the largest healthcare services groups in Asia, presented more than 600 innovative eZCooler boxes to representatives of the northern provinces of Hai Duong, Bac Ninh, Son La, Yen Bai, Ha Giang, and Quang Ninh in an effort to enhance access to vaccines in those areas.
The presentation ceremony came after months of providing training courses to local healthcare staff by the National Institute for Control of Vaccines and Biologicals and Zuellig Pharma Vietnam, demonstrating the group’s long-term commitment to supporting the community, especially in vaccinations – a key current task for the healthcare sector.
Addressing the event, Mr. Marc Franck, Chief Executive of Zuellig Pharma Vietnam Co., Ltd., said: “By providing eZCooler – an innovative packaging solution, we are supporting the Vietnam Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) as the solution helps to deliver vaccines to areas that are geographically difficult to reach and ensures the integrity of vaccines during transportation. We are pleased to be part of this effort in making high quality vaccines more accessible to the unreached population of Vietnam.”
New expansion steps
The donation is significant because of the rising demands and changeable weather which result in more complicated diseases. Meanwhile, prevention of such diseases remains weak and complex in remote and rural areas due to low awareness and low capacity to ensure qualified infrastructure for vaccine preservation and transportation.
According to the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) Department of Preventive Medicine, infectious diseases can spread more widely in the colder seasons, such as influenza and measles. Vaccinations are therefore the optimal choice for children and the vulnerable.
As a beneficiary of the US$600,000 eZCoolers project, a leader of the Hai Duong provincial Department of Health said that the boxes will be delivered to rural and remote areas. “We are very happy with the donation, and we hope to get more in the future,” the leader said.
Vietnam has been a bright spot for the expanded immunization programme in recent years thanks to increased coverage in many provinces, districts, and communes nationwide with over 95 per cent of children under a year old being vaccinated. Last year, more than 1.7 million children were registered on the national immunisation information management system.
Vietnam, as well as other countries in Asia, face a tough challenge in the safe handling of vaccines. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than half of all vaccines manufactured globally are destroyed during the storage and delivery process.
Particularly in Vietnam, provinces in remote, mountainous, or island areas are still unable to ensure cold chain quality for vaccines. In these locations, cold chain infrastructure under the EPI funded by the government is being downgraded. Furthermore, employees of the Medical Prevention Departments in these areas are not properly trained in vaccine management and preservation.
“The EPI is one of the most successful public health programmes in Vietnam. Through EPI, we protect millions of Vietnamese children from deadly infectious diseases, and millions of pregnant women and new-born babies from emprosthotonos” said Doan Huu Thien, Director of the National Institute for Control of Vaccines and Biologicals.
“To ensure the quality of vaccines, equipment used in the cold chain from production, storage, and transport is extremely important, and the eZCoolers are approved for this purpose,” Thien noted.
Through the eZCooler project, the quality of vaccines is further ensured during transportation in the remote, and mountainous areas. The initiative is the next step in the MoH project to expand access to vaccines in Vietnam into next year, thus enabling the country to increase the rate of children under 12 months old nationwide receiving full vaccinations, and to contribute to reaching the United Nations Millennium Goals of lowering the death rate among five-year-old children worldwide.
Today, Vietnam is the fourth Asian nation in which Zuellig Pharma is sharing its expertise and technology to expand access to vaccines, after Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Effective tools to increase access
The effort of Zuellig Pharma is proving how effective public-private partnerships can be in making healthcare more accessible. One Zuellig Pharma leader told VIR that the company is bringing advanced technology to Vietnam, is learning from pilot programmes, and will expand supporting activities to other provinces in the future.
The MoH is seeking international support for the EPI to benefit more children. It is estimated that around 5.5 million children in Vietnam are born into poor families, and lack full access to education, healthcare, nutrition, housing, clean water, and hygiene.
Zuellig Pharma Vietnam is the first FIE granted by the Ministry of Health the certificate of eligibility for a pharmacy business to directly import drugs to the country.
Similarly, Novartis has signed an MoU with the MoH on raising primary healthcare in Vietnam through activities at commune and district levels from towards 2021, with one of the four areas to increase generic high-quality medicine approaches to non-communicable diseases for the people.
Meanwhile, many other MNCs are making similar moves.
The trend among MNCs is to focus on a more community-based long-term business strategy. In the past, they focused mainly on manufacturing and trading to gain benefits there. But now, they want to sustainably develop in the country.
Good news is ahead for these MNCs as the Vietnamese government has taken new actions to increase access to vaccines. Accordingly, the prime minister recently asked ministries, cities, and provinces to facilitate the private sector participation in vaccination in order to attract resources to develop a vaccination system, while increasing related services, and creating new kinds of vaccine.
The government leader also asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) to work with the MoH on an incentive policy to attract investment in relevant manufacturing, especially in production of new-generation vaccines used in the EPI, while increasing capital in research and development, as well as technology transfer.