"Low immunization coverage can potentially lead to outbreaks in cases of diseases that can be prevented by immunization," Director General of Disease Prevention and Control of the Health Ministry Maxi Rein Rondonuwu stated during a hearing meeting with Commission IX of the House of Representatives on Monday.
Until November 2021, some 147 suspected diphtheria reports with 90 specimens were examined in the laboratory, and 23 of them were confirmed, Rondonuwu added.
In addition, 54 cases of measles and 91 cases of rubella were also reported. More than 80 percent of the reports from patients came with incomplete immunization status or unclear vaccination history.
The national immunization program had experienced success in 1980, including the eradication of smallpox, a polio-free certificate in 2006, and the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2016.
However, complete basic immunization coverage nationwide until October 2021 had only reached 56.5 percent of the target of 78 percent of the population. The provinces of Bengkulu, Banten, South Sumatra, South Sulawesi, and Bangka Belitung recorded the highest immunization coverage.
Complete basic immunizations for children include Hepatitis B, BCG, Polio, and DPT.
"There is a decline in immunization coverage from 2019 to 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the difference in immunization numbers before the pandemic is not too big," Rondonuwu pointed out.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin had requested a survey to monitor national immunization coverage annually. The program is proposed since the periodic surveys every five years had not provided an accurate result of the achievement.
Several challenges encountered during the implementation of the immunization program during the pandemic comprised the procurement of vaccines that was hampered by distribution to districts and cities due to vaccine storage warehouses in the regions being full.
"Procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines for immunization will be conducted together to avoid overcapacity at the warehouse," Rondonuwu remarked.
In addition, health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic tended to concentrate on handling COVID-19 patients. The pandemic condition also compelled the integrated health services posts (Posyandu) to close down.
"People with doubts about vaccines and in remote areas also pose a challenge for us in expediting immunization coverage," he added.
Rondonuwu ensured that the Health Ministry had readied a strategy to overcome all these challenges. One of the approaches was the involvement of the Indonesia Defense Forces (TNI) and National Police (Polri) to penetrate remote communities as well as to edify about vaccination for the community.
The agenda of the DPR Commission IX Hearing Meeting was attended by the Director General of Disease Prevention and Control of the Ministry of Health, the Director General of Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices at the Ministry of Health, the board of the Indonesian Pediatrician Association (IDAI), the board of the Indonesia Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (Itagi), and Indonesian Association of Gynecological Oncology (HOGI).
The meeting discussed the implementation of the regular vaccination program, developments pertaining to the discussion on the national immunization program for PCV, HPV, and Rotavirus, as well as preparations for the 2021 Students Immunization Month Program (BIAS).
Related news: Children must get complete basic immunization before COVID vaccination
Related news: COVID immunization program: First dose coverage crosses 100% in Bali
Related news: Health Ministry expands immunization program to offer 14 vaccines