A recently launched programme — funded by the European Union (EU) — to support countries in central Asia on COVID-19 and on routine immunization is making strides in Tajikistan. Members of an EU delegation, along with representatives from WHO and the country’s Ministry of Health, visited vaccine warehouses and an immunization point in the country, and discussed how the programme to modernize the surveillance and promotion of immunization in the region is taking shape.
In Tajikistan, the vast majority of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, protecting them from serious illness. Furthermore, 3 additional vaccines have been introduced into the national immunization schedule over the last 5 years, which will contribute to a significant reduction in the incidence of life-threatening illnesses, such as pneumonia and meningitis. Despite these major achievements, there is still a need to further strengthen the country’s routine immunization system.
Building a resilient immunization system is complex, and multidisciplinary technical expertise is needed. For example, ensuring the safety and effectiveness of vaccines requires adherence to diligent processes and a strict cold chain. In Tajikistan this means making sure strict procedures and guidelines are followed from the moment a vaccine arrives in the country until it has been administered.
National immunization schedule
To demonstrate the complexity and thoroughness of the immunization system in Tajikistan, the visit started at the national vaccine warehouse, where vaccines are stored upon arrival in the country. Conditions such as temperature and humidity are continuously monitored at this facility. The vaccines are handled with care from the time they are sent to regional and district warehouses, until their arrival at an immunization point such as a primary health care facility, from where trained health workers immunize the population.
The delegation visited one of these immunization points in Khuroson district, where, almost every morning, parents bring their children to make sure they receive the vaccinations they need according to the national immunization schedule, to protect them from preventable diseases.
“Vaccines save lives every day. This is why the European Union supports Tajikistan to further strengthen immunization. With the technical expertise of WHO, we are confident this new programme will achieve better health for all people in Tajikistan,” said Marc Buchmann, Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Tajikistan.
Digitizing the system
The visit was organized as part of a 4-year EU-funded project in 5 countries of central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and reinforce the resilience of health systems. Immunization plays a pivotal role in this regard. By supporting central Asian countries to promote and deliver vaccines safely to the population, infectious diseases can be prevented and controlled more effectively.
The EU is investing €10 million into central Asia’s immunization and health information systems — further modernizing them through digitalization and improving the availability of good-quality data, which is crucial to ensuring high immunization coverage at all times, leaving no one behind.