The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Samoa have signed a grant agreement to provide support to the health sector to strengthen the country’s immunization program and procure cold chain equipment to safely transport vaccines, which is supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the regional System Strengthening for Effective Coverage of New Vaccines in the Pacific Project.

The USD1.4 million grant will support strengthening of routine immunization, with pending additional financing up to USD3.7 million for vaccines through the Vaccine Independence Initiative.

“The consequences of the recent measles epidemic in Samoa have highlighted the need to strengthen immunization programs in the country,” said the Ministry of Health’s Director General Dr. Take Naseri. “We look forward to participating in this Pacific regional project, which represents a positive step towards protecting the health of families in Samoa and across the region.”

Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu have joined under the project, which is supported by UNICEF, financed by ADB, and implemented by the four Ministries of Health through loans and grants worth USD25.1 million.

Over 580,000 people across the four countries will benefit from the project, helping to improve overall immunization coverage rates and support greater efficiency of primary health services.

ADB’s assistance will finance investments to strengthen country immunization programs within the broader health system, while pooling resources for the procurement of rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate, and human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines though an established UNICEF supply facility. These vaccines will provide a broader range of protection to girls and children.

“The project will strengthen the immunization programs in the target countries through a series of investments including clinical training, program management, equipment upgrades to ensure vaccines can be appropriately stored and transported, and better reporting systems to improve the effectiveness of immunization programs and overall performance of health systems,” said ADB Health Specialist for the Pacific, Ms. Inez Mikkelsen-Lopez.

UNICEF Pacific Representative, Mr. Sheldon Yett, said, “We are proud to be partnering with ADB and the Government of Samoa on this project to ensure that vaccines reach those families and children who are most vulnerable and need them most in Samoa. Vaccines save lives and are vital to protect children against these preventable diseases.”

The project will support the government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its immunization program following the recent measles outbreak. It will also deliver new vaccines to reduce the incidences of pneumonia and diarrhea in children and protect young girls against HPV to reduce the risk of cervical cancer, which is a leading cause of premature mortality in women in the Pacific.

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