Health Ministry to establish 1,200 vaccine cold stores in the next four yearsChild health experts say the extension of cold storage units will boost the efficacy of vaccines.
In a bid to ensure the effectiveness of childhood vaccines, the Ministry of Health and Population has decided to set up 1,200 cold stores throughout the country in the next four years.
Towards that end, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, a global health partnership of public and private sector organisations, has provided Rs 300 million to the ministry.
"This fiscal year we will set up 185 cold stores in several districts,” said Dr Jhalak Sharma, chief of the Immunisation Section at the Family Welfare Division that falls under the Department of Health Services. "We will set up 1,200 cold storage facilities in the next four years."
Over 400 vaccine cold stores are currently in operation across the country. Sharma said that transport and storage equipment would be provided to local health facilities and training in handling the cold storage would be imparted to health workers. The storage units will be equipped with 24-hour power back-up and other necessary equipment. Solar panels, batteries or kerosene-powered generators will also be provided, according to Sharma.
The immunisation programme, which is currently the government’s top priority, provides 11 types of vaccines free of cost to all children throughout the country. Except for the oral polio vaccine, the other 10 vaccines should be placed at temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Centigrade. Both extreme heat and freezing temperatures spoil the quality of the vaccine. In Jumla and Kalikot districts, minimum temperatures decline to more than minus 10 degrees Celsius.
Due to the lack of cold storage in nearby areas, inoculators have to sometimes source their vaccines from miles away, which risks affecting the efficacy of the vaccines. They use ice and cold boxes to supply the vaccines. Besides, children will miss their doses if inoculators fail to supply the vaccines.
Dr Baburam Marasini, a health expert, said that the effectiveness of the vaccines will be destroyed if they are not kept within the designated temperature range.
"Cold storage will ensure both the effectiveness and accessibility of vaccines," said Marasini. "Extension of cold storage facilities will also help increase the rate of immunisation and reduce child mortality rates."
The immunisation programme is credited with reducing the child mortality rate in the country. For every 1,000 live births, 34 children die before reaching the age of five currently in Nepal, according to UNICEF.
The country is committed to reducing under-five mortality to 25 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030 to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets.