$10m bill

Timoci Naqona, 7, after gettng meningococcal disease vaccination from staff nurse Merewalesi Baba, as Minister for Health and Medical Service Rosy Akbar looks on during the launch of the meningococcal disease - nationwide immunization campaign for children aged 1-19 years at the Ministry of Health headquarters in Toorak, Suva last Friday, May 11, 2018. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

THE total cost of the State’s meningococcal disease mass vaccination campaign has been reduced to less than $10m, inclusive of operational costs. This was revealed by Health Minister, Rosy Akbar last night, who confirmed this was after negotiations with the relevant parties involved in procuring the vaccines.

Attorney-General and Economy Minister Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum told Parliament last month that the mass vaccination program targeting Fijians aged 19 years and below could cost the State up to $40m.

“That is the cost for all the 325,000 vaccines,” Ms Akbar said.

“It will cost about $10m because we negotiated with the International Coordinating Group and we managed to bring the price down.

It is the same vaccine but at a lower price” Acting permanent secretary for Health Susan Kiran said Cabinet had approved the nationwide vaccination campaign, regardless of the cost.

“It wasn’t that $40m was handed to us. He (A-G) did not say it would be $40m, he said it could be $10m and it could even go up to $40m,” Ms Kiran said.

The mass vaccination campaign begins in Ra and the Central Division today.

Ms Akbar said these were hotspot areas for the ministry.

The vaccination program is aimed at preventing people in these age groups from contracting the disease.

“This is where most of the cases are and then we’ll move on,” she said.

She also confirmed the ministry does not have the facility to accommodate the storage of the 325,000 vaccines for the program. She said this was why the vaccination campaign was done in phases.

“The issue with this bulk vaccination is the storage issue. We need a cold chain storage, that’s why we are getting it in phases so we are able to store this. “It is a very critical component for this vaccine; it needs to be stored in a cold chain process. “If we were to bring in 300,000 at one shot, we would have an issue with storage so that’s why the program is phased out. As it comes in, it will be rolled out.”

The ministry earlier confirmed 124,000 people would be vaccinated in the first phase of the vaccination program. The ministry declared an outbreak of Men-C in March.

Eleven lives were lost last year and this year from the disease while another 46 cases were recorded by the ministry between January and April this year.