Around the world, millions of children’s lives are put at risk every year because they lack access to life-saving vaccines. However, at the same time individual heroes the world over are changing the future of millions of other children by ensuring access to these critical vaccines. Recently, Nilgun Aydogon, a program officer with the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on saving children’s lives by increasing access to immunization in poor countries, was able to witness firsthand the incredible impact of some of these vaccinator heroes. This is the third entry in our four part series following a vaccinator’s journey across Myanmar.
Vaccines perish if exposed to Myanmar’s baking heat, so I’m inspecting freezers storing vials at Pyinmana hospital. Cold mist rises as Myint Han opens a lid to reveal boxes of measles vaccines ready for distribution, usually in a cold box on the back of a motorbike.
Everything conforms to best practice, but I‘m concerned there is no emergency generator if one of Myanmar’s frequent power outages strikes.
Limited storage means vaccines are only available on routine immunization days, usually in the first week of each month. This works well for campaigns that occur over a few days. But there are not enough vaccines stored in local hospitals to provide day-to-day routine services and run immunization clinics in remote villages.
This will be a problem when Myanmar introduces the sophisticated pentavalent vaccine later this year. There is also no means to take back vaccines that go unused; they risk perishing in the heat.