At Sabin’s Second Sustainable Immunization Financing Colloquium, held in Dakar, Senegal on 5-6 August, 2013, we had the chance to get a few thoughts from Zangad Bayanselenge, Member of the Great State of Hural and Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Education, Culture and Science, on the country’s efforts to scale up financing of their immunization program, as GAVI Alliance contributions are set to decrease.

How do you characterize Mongolia’s EPI (Extended Program on Immunization)?

Mongolia has a very high-performance EPI program, [editor’s note: currently the Mongolia EPI program finances five out of six vaccines] but there are a lot of things that can be done to improve it.

For example, we have high coverage and immunization officials are reaching nearly every child. However, we still need to focus on the quality, including reporting on side effects and ensuring that the vaccines are provided in a safe way. We had a case for example, where a child was malnourished and was not healthy enough to get vaccine.  But they provided it, and afterward, the child became sick, which made the parents think this was caused by the quality of the vaccine.

Additionally, we’d like to focus on proper implementation of new vaccines and better public awareness and understanding of the program is important.

Why is developing sustainable financing for immunization so important in Mongolia?

It is very important to have sustainable financing for immunization.  Currently for Mongolia, we have a co-financing agreement with GAVI, where we each pay 50 percent of the cost of the Pentavalent vaccine. But now as part of that agreement, GAVI financing set to decrease, which means that government financing needs to increase. So we need to have the proper plan to ensure we have enough funding for the program.

Any ideas on how to do that?

There is the separate fund from the state budget, which is called the health fund. This is financed by 2 percent of the excise taxes. Some of the portion of the health fund could go to immunization. That’s what I am going to work on.

How long will it take for vaccinations to be fully financed by Mongolia?

I don’t have a definite time frame. But, Mongolia has a parliamentary government, and it is likely to happen in 4 years, since that is the duration of the term for parliament.