In April 2013, an agreement was signed by Sabin and the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), making Vietnam the newest Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) Program country.  To kick it off, NIHE and Sabin jointly sponsored a subnational briefing in Da Nang on 13 May. On hand were SIF Senior Program Officers Khongorzul Dari and Mariya Savchuk.

The briefing was attended by Ministry of Health immunization managers from Vietnam’s four regions (Northern, Southern, Central and Highland). They were joined by counterparts from the National Assembly and the Ministries of Finance and Planning and Investigation.  This was the first such intersectoral immunization meeting to be hosted by NIHE.

Like other lower middle income countries, Vietnam will soon be spending on the order of US$60 or more per fully immunized child.  Not all of the country’s 63 provinces currently report what they spend on immunization, but they will have to if Vietnam is to meet the Global Vaccine Action Plan benchmark of annually reporting total government immunization expenditures.  National immunization program manager and NIHE Director Professor Nguyen Tran Hien asked Sabin to work with his team to solve this problem.  All recognized the need to begin tracking program expenditures more closely, down to subnational levels, just as NIHE now tracks disease incidence and vaccine coverage.

"Mike McQuestion and Khongorzul Dari came to Vietnam in October and discussed the importance of the EPI budget at the local level. Since then, we have really taken the EPI budget at the provincial level seriously”, said deputy immunization program manager Dr. Nguyen Van Cuong.

Vietnam is known for its high-performing national immunization program.  For more than a decade, over ninety percent of Vietnamese infants have been fully immunized. Vaccine-preventable diseases like polio and measles are a thing of the past. The country manufactures and exports traditional vaccines and is an innovation leader in technical areas like immunization registries. More expensive conjugate vaccines will soon be introduced.  

“I think the Vietnamese have a lot to share with the other SIF countries”, commented Savchuk after the briefing. Dari concurred and noted that “The Vietnamese have a very well structured EPI program. They have a lot to share with other countries.”  They will have the opportunity to do so this August when a Vietnamese delegation joins delegations from the other SIF countries in Dakar, Senegal for the second Sabin SIF colloquium.