Bhutan Health Trust Fund (BHTF) released Nu 9.758 Million (M) to the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme with the health ministry for procurement of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) for the year 2019 – 20.
The health ministry rolled out PCV into the routine immunisation on January 11 this year. The vaccine is given to infants at six weeks, 10 weeks and nine months of age in all health facilities.
The vaccine prevents transmission of pneumococcal bacterial diseases such as pneumonia, otitis media, bacteraemia, and meningitis in children under five years.
According to health officials, pneumococcal infection affects children and adults causing morbidity and mortality, especially in low and middle-income countries. In Bhutan, pneumococcal disease burden is high.
In the last six years, 71,595 pneumonia cases were reported in the country. A total of 83,425 otitis media and 1,744 meningitis were reported during the same duration. These diseases, health officials said, also contribute to high societal costs, as parents have to take time off their work to attend to the sick children.
Due to the high disease burden, the National Technical Advisory Body for immunisation services recommended the health ministry to introduce the vaccine in the country.
A feasibility study was undertaken and completed in June 2017. The study result indicated that introduction of PCV would be cost-effective and provide good value for money and would prevent mortality and morbidity due to pneumococcal diseases.
While the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) provided support for one time operational of introduction cost through a grant amounting to Nu 7.5M, BHTF will fund the procurement of the vaccine. The vaccine is estimated to cost the BHTF about Nu 9 Million annually.
BHTF was established in 2000. Since then, the trust fund has been operating as a self-sustaining financing facility and help finance the procurement of essential drugs and vaccines whereby aiding the sustainability of Primary Health Care in Bhutan.
The trust fund has spent about Nu 40 and 250M for the procurement of vaccines and essential drugs respectively for 2018 to 19.
In the 2019 to 2020 financial year, a total of Nu 350M has been approved for the procurement of vaccines and essential drugs. Of which, Nu 220M budget is approved for the Department of Medical Supplies and Health Infrastructure (DoMSHI), Nu 110 and Nu 19.8 Million for Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme.
Besides the PCV, the trust fund funds the procurement of Pentavalent, Human papillomavirus and influenza vaccines.
Currently, BHTF’s capital stands at Nu 2.904 Billion.
The move for health walks and special lottery in 2018 were some of the activities that the health trust fund undertook to mobilise fund.
Officials with BHTF said that limited domestic investment avenues, donor fatigue and escalating cost in essential drugs and vaccines were some of the challenges faced.