FS broadens immunisation programme

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pretoria - The coverage of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) will be increased in the Free State in an effort to reduce maternal mortality.

Tabling the department's R6.8 billion budget for 2011/12, Free State Health MEC Fezi Ngubentombi announced that the coverage of the EPI will be increased from 86.6 percent to 91 percent of the target population.

Ngubentombi noted that the 2010 EPI schedule to protect the children of the Free State assisted 46 932 children and vaccinations were given for preventable diseases, with 81 percent of the target population immunised.

"With regard to women's health, progress was made in the early identification of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening coverage increased from 25 percent in 2009/10 to 40 percent in 2010/11," Ngubentombi said.

The MEC also announced that the department will be providing the two new vaccines (rotavirus and pneumococcal conjugate) to reduce infant and child mortality through diarrhoea and pneumonia.

In line with the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 5, which is the reduction of maternal mortality, Ngubentombi said a Maternal and Child Health Unit has been established at the Universitas Academic Hospital. 

The department will appoint a principal obstetrician, paediatrician, family physician, midwife and primary health nurse per district. 

Giving an update on the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), Ngubentombi reported the programme underwent substantial review and a number of clinical protocols were revised. 

About 51 percent of HIV positive pregnant women were put on Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, Ngubentombi said, adding that the department will continue to strive to achieve an HIV free generation through an effective PMTCT programme. 

In a bid to combat HIV and Aids, Ngubentombi said the department will increase the uptake of pregnant women and children, who are HIV infected, into the treatment programme. They also will strive to retain children and adults in the programme and effectively manage TB and HIV co-infection.

The department will increase the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals, improve monitoring and evaluation of the programme, as well as ensuring that all sites have an electronic data monitoring system. 

According to the 2009 National HIV Antenatal Prevalence Survey, the overall HIV prevalence estimates among first time antenatal care attendees in South Africa was 29.4 percent, with the Free State province ranked the third highest in the country with HIV prevalence of 30.1 percent.

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