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Immunization Drive 'Needs More Funding'

The government should pay more attention to disease prevention and increase funding for better implementation of the national immunization program, a senior health official said on Monday.

Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the remarks at a meeting on the nation's immunization program.

China's 30-year-old immunization drive, allegedly the world's most extensive, now has 14 vaccines covering 15 infectious diseases that range from tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, to epidemic encephalitis B.

"However, there are still faults in the current immunization drive which need to be addressed," Wang said.

Newborns in rural and western regions have poor access to the immunity program, he said.

"Currently, primary healthcare services, including the immunization program in the countryside, lag far behind that of the urban areas.

"A number of women in the poverty-stricken rural areas have to give birth at home, and therefore their children are not vaccinated against diseases," Wang said.

The migrant population moves frequently after jobs, some with their children. These children are not vaccinated, he said.

The deputy head of the diseases prevention and bureau of the Ministry of Health, Hao Yang, said measures are being taken to address the problem.

Local health authorities are required to give free vaccinations to all children aged over 3 months in areas under their jurisdiction.

Last year, the central government allocated 2.7 billion yuan to the immunity program, of which almost 700 million yuan went to the rural areas in the form of subsidizes to medical workers.

At many places in the countryside free vaccines cannot be provided due to a lack of funds.

The government subsidizes the CDCs above the county level, Wang said.

However, the CDCs at the lower levels - townships and villages - have to contribute toward the immunization program.

"Under such circumstances, their enthusiasm to support the program is dampened," Wang said.

A 2006 survey showed that almost 82 percent of children under 14 had been vaccinated under the national program against hepatitis B.

(China Daily April 22, 2008)

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