Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday received the prestigious 'Vaccine Hero' award in recognition of Bangladesh's outstanding success in vaccination to immunise children.
Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisations (GAVI) conferred the award upon the Prime Minister at a ceremony at the Conference Room 1 of the UN Headquarters.
GAVI Board chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala handed over the award to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Receiving the award, Sheikh Hasina dedicated it to the people of Bangladesh. "This award is not of mine, it's the award of the people of Bangladesh," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the success of Bangladesh in vaccination programme is now globally acknowledged.
The Prime Minister urged the people of the country to continue the vaccination programme to develop a healthy new generation that will build a prosperous Bangladesh as dreamt by the Father of the Nation.
Hasina hoped to reach the target of 'vaccines for all' in the country well ahead of 2030.
She said the sudden influx of 1.1 million 'Forcibly Displaced Rohingyas' in Cox's Bazar from Rakhine State is a formidable challenge to our health sector as they did not have access to any proper health services in Myanmar.
"We've taken extraordinary measures to raise immunity of the Rohingyas through vaccination campaign and routine immunisation. We've successfully conducted cholera vaccination, dealt with diphtheria and measles outbreak at the camps," she said.
Hasina said Bangladesh is the first country to use Gavi's updated fragility, emergency and refugees' policy to carry out Gavi-supported vaccination campaigns for Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar. "I thank GAVI for supporting us in this initiative."
She mentioned that when the Rohingays started entering Bangladesh, the government gave them various types of vaccines so that their diseases do not spread.
"At first we did that from our side. Later, we had got support from various international organisations, especially from the GAVI," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh's hard-work for vaccination is now globally acknowledged.
"I'm equally honoured to receive the 'Vaccine Hero' award on behalf of Bangladesh and all the frontline health workers of my country," she said.
Hasina mentioned Bangladesh was honoured with GAVI Alliance Award in 2009 and 2012 for its outstanding performance in improving the child immunisation status.
"Ensuring health and nutrition to all has always been a political commitment to our people. Through the Visions 2021 and 2041, we want to take the country to a stage which would be able to ensure the basic healthcare and sufficient nutrition for all," she said.
Hasina said immunisation has been the greatest public health success story in Bangladesh and she wanted to thank the Vaccine Alliance and other partners for their continued support and contributions.
She said the success of vaccination programmes in Bangladesh has effectively controlled most of the traditional vaccine-preventable diseases.
"Immunisation has been integrated with other primary healthcare services at all levels. Dedicated vaccine centres, and over 14,000 Community Clinics and Union Health Centres are providing vaccination services across Bangladesh," she said.
As part of government's continuous efforts to achieve the goals under SDGs national DTP3 coverage has increased to 98 percent from 85 percent, MCV1 to 97 percent from 77 percent and overall vaccine coverage in all districts increased above 82 percent, Hasina said.
She also mentioned that Bangladesh has measles, rubella and CRS elimination strategic plan to achieve the goal by 2020, and appreciated GAVI's support in this regard.
The Prime Minister said it is heartening to see that since its inception in 2000, GAVI has helped immunise over 760 million people against the deadly diseases saving more than 13 million lives. "Bangladesh appreciates GAVI's aim to reach an additional 300 million children during 2021 to 2025."
Hasina said the government is committed to immunising under the 'Universal Health Coverage' with support from the international community.
GAVI chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and GAVI CEO Seth Berkley also spoke at the programme.
Before handing over the award, a citation was read out by GAVI chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The citation said the Vaccine Hero Award has been introduced by the GAVI to recognize global figures whose dedication to the Vaccine Alliance's Mission has played a key role in helping GAVI and its partners to protect hundreds of millions of children across the globe.
"This is an award for those who have set out a clear ambition and displayed urgency in providing lifesaving vaccines to children and ensuring that no child is left out."
Sheikh Hasina is a true champion of immunisation as well as rights of the children and the women empowerment, the citation reads.