For six-week-old Ratu Boladau's parents, October 29, 2012 was a momentous day. Ratu Boladau was one the first babies to receive the lifesaving vaccines—Rotavirus and Pneumococcal which will protect him from meningitis, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia. These two vaccines will target the biggest causes of death and disease in children under five years in Fiji.
With the introduction of the Rotavirus and Pneumococcal vaccines, it's estimated that more than 22,000 babies born on average per year in Fiji after September 17, 2012 will be protected against these fatal diseases.
Australian AID is supporting the Ministry of Health's efforts to save lives with a four-year cost sharing agreement supporting not only the Rotavirus and Pneumococcal vaccines but also the introduction of the Human Papilloma Virus targeting cervical cancer.
Marking yet another milestone, Fiji became the first country in the world to have these three vaccines introduced simultaneously into the public health system, making international medical history.
The human papilloma virus vaccine will be administered to school girls in their final year at primary school at the end of this year's term 1.
This vaccine will benefit 8000 young women who would otherwise be vulnerable to cervical cancer which kills approximately 66 women yearly in Fiji.
Through AusAID's Fiji Health Sector Support Program, funding support of $10 million will be used on vaccine procurement, training of nurses in immunisation delivery, a communication strategy to raise awareness of these vaccines with parents and families as well as supporting the Ministry of Health to evaluate the impact of the vaccines on reducing disease burden.
All babies born in Fiji are now eligible for these vaccines which will help prevent many illnesses that have in the past, seen babies and young children hospitalised.
"This will make a significant difference for the health of infants and babies in Fiji" says Margaret Vuiyasawa, AusAID's Acting Senior Program Manager Health.