said Duong Thi Hong, deputy director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, head of the division on the National Expanded Vaccination Programme.

Vaccination against diphtheria is an effective way to prevent the disease. 

The move came as HCM City, Đắk Nông and Kon Tum provinces have reported a number of patients diagnosed with diphtheria.

The Ministry of Health will coordinate with the Ministry of Education and Training to review the injection of vaccinations for diphtheria in six provinces and cities at high-risk, Hồng said.

It is necessary for children to obtain a document proving that they have been vaccinated as required by the expanded immunisation programme before enrolling in preschools. Otherwise, they have to go to local health stations to have sufficient shots, ensuring that they could be prevented from diseases.

In Việt Nam, children under two years old are given free five-in-one vaccine shot which include diphtheria. However, older children will be the most vulnerable group when the vaccination rate drops, experts said.

A vaccination programme against diphtheria and tetanus has recently been carried out but it has reached only children under seven years old in 30 vulnerable cities and provinces.

According to the Ministry of Health, at present, the diphtheria epidemic has not been excluded in the country, so people can be infected if they have not been fully vaccinated and exposed to pathogens.

Parents are urged to ensure their children have a total of four diphtheria vaccine shots taken at the proper times. 

The four shots, scheduled correctly, could prevent the disease. Early detection can be treated with antibiotics, according to the department.

The disease has appeared in remote areas where the vaccination coverage rate is low, the department said.

Hồng told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper that the nationwide rate should be more than 95 per cent to prevent an outbreak of the disease.

Hồng said that vaccinations stopped in the social distancing period. The rate of children under 18 months old with vaccines against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus this year has only reached 28.9 per cent.

Thanks to the implementation of national expanded programme on immunisation for children under one year of age, Việt Nam has basically controlled the diphtheria.

Việt Nam has begun deploying the repeated injection of diphtheria vaccines for children at 18 months of age since 2010. As a result, the country has recorded about 10 cases a year on average instead of hundreds of patients each year compared to the 1980s.

Đắk Nông Province has three more diphtheria patients

The Central Highlands province of Đắk Nông has reported three more patients who have contracted diphtheria, raising the total number to 15.

The three new patients include two children aged 8 and another aged 15. The patients live in an area where diphtheria has broken out.

The province is making efforts to prevent the spread. Health officials are strengthening surveillance in areas with diphtheria outbreaks to find and isolate patients in time.

The province is also setting up a team with staff from relevant agencies to monitor and offer hygiene instructions under the Ministry of Health’s directive.

Health facilities have prepared staff and medical materials for treatment, and quarantine areas have been set up at the facilities. 

Of the 15 patients, a 13-year-old was sent to HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases for further treatment one week ago.

 

According to the hospital, the teenager's health became worse after one week of treatment. The heartbeat was irregular, and heart and kidney function failed. The patient is on a ventilator and artificial cardiac pacemaker. The mortality rate is nearly 80 per cent.

The 13-year-old patient as well as a 20-year-old patient from HCM City who is being treated at Military Hospital 175 had not been vaccinated against the disease.

According to the General Department of Preventive Medicine, diphtheria is a potentially fatal contagious bacterial infection among children aged 1 to 7. But older children and adults can also contract the disease.

Many diptheria patients in Đắk Nông, Kon Tum and HCM City are older children and adults who had not been vaccinated or did not receive all four vaccination shots.

In HCM City’s Thủ Đức District, many parents who were worried about their children brought them to the district’s Health Centre for vaccinations, leading to a shortage of preserved vaccines. Health Centre staff had to tell some parents to return to the centre one week later.   

An Giang Province

In the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, the People’s Committee has told relevant agencies and local authorities to take preventive measures against diphtheria even though the province has not yet reported a case.

The province has asked parents to bring their children to health facilities for all vaccinations.

The Department of Health has organised training courses on treatment of the disease to improve health staff’s capacity in detection and treatment.

They have also compiled a list of children who have not received the necessary four vaccination shots. The aim is to reach immunity coverage of more than 95 per cent.  

The People’s Committee has instructed the Department of Education and Training to assist the Department of Health to vaccinate all second graders.

If teachers think that students have symptoms of the disease, they should isolate them and take them to hospital for treatment, and report to local health staff.

The Department of Information and Communications will work with the Department of Health to strengthen communications about preventive measures and the vaccination programme.

Health Ministry issues urgent guidelines as diphtheria cases increase

With diphtheria spreading across several provinces, with 26 infections and two deaths reported so far, the Ministry of Health has issued urgent guidelines on dealing with the disease.

In the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, 11 people were suffering from diphtheria as of July 3.

Dak Nong Province, also in the Central Highlands, is another diphtheria hotspot, with 15 cases including two deaths.

The Ministry of Health noted that diphtheria is developing unpredictably in some central and Central Highlands provinces and asked them to take measures to prevent the spread of the disease and minimize deaths.

For Dak Nong Province, the ministry asked the provincial Department of Health to strictly take preventive measures, promptly detect and quarantine new cases, enhance the capacity of medical centers and health workers and increase health examinations for locals.

The province should prepare sufficient quarantine centers, medical equipment and medicines in case the situation worsens. It can ask the Ministry of Health for support, if needed.

The province should also educate local residents about the symptoms and dangers of diphtheria as well as preventive measures.

The ministry asked Daklak, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Lam Dong and Binh Phuoc provinces to receive patients from Dak Nong in case of emergencies and ensure they receive proper treatment. VNS/SGT