Pentavalent vaccine provides protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). While many vaccines are now produced in Viet Nam, the pentavalent vaccine that provides protection against these five serious illnesses in one convenient and safe shot, must be purchased from approved suppliers overseas. 

Like every other country in the world, routine immunization services in Viet Nam were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in an estimated 114,000 children under 1 year old in 2022 failing to receive any doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine, which is used as the global marker for immunization coverage. In addition, due to the recent shortage of this vaccine in the country, a rough estimate of 300,000 children who were born in early 2023 have not yet received any dose of this essential vaccine. Children who are not vaccinated are at an increased risk of death or ongoing serious illness that are easily prevented with the vaccine, like diphtheria. High numbers of unvaccinated children may result in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

These risks threaten the gains achieved by Viet Nam towards reducing child mortality over the past few decades. It is important that the accelerated effort and bold action continue to be taken by the Government and Ministry of Health to overcome issues related to vaccine procurement to ensure that essential vaccines reach every child in a timely fashion, not only those who are due for vaccination, but ensuring that outreach is achieved to all children who missed vaccination due to the pandemic.

UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam, Ms. Rana Flowers remarked that “Immunization saves the lives of millions of children around the globe every year. Until the gap in routine immunization coverage is filled, children everywhere will remain at risk of contracting and dying from diseases that can be prevented. WHO and UNICEF are proud to support efforts to ensure that children across Viet Nam who missed their vaccines are urgently immunized, while restoring and further improving immunization services from pre-pandemic levels.”

WHO Viet Nam Representative Dr Angela Pratt said: WHO is delighted to join hands with UNICEF to support the Ministry of Health to help children in Viet Nam catch up on their all-important routine immunizations. We’re proud that this donation of five-in-one, or pentavalent, vaccine will be used to protect children in some of Viet Nam’s remotest and hardest-to-reach communities.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure every child who has missed out on a vaccine since the start of the pandemic is caught up. This will require both ongoing, targeted catch-up campaigns as well as efforts to strengthen the system overall. WHO will continue to work with UNICEF and other partners to support the Government of Viet Nam to ensure that every child in every corner of the country receives all of their routine immunizations, now and in the future”