(2002; 91 pages)
Tetanus vaccine pre-filled injection device
UNICEF has announced concentrated efforts to deliver a vaccine against maternal and neonatal tetanus in an effort to potentially save the lives of thousands of women and their newborn children. The first campaign, begun in Mali, is being enhanced by the introduction of a pre-filled injection device that will make it easier to immunize women in remote areas. The new device is a single dose, pre-filled syringe with tetanus toxoid that can be administered by lay people.
Maternal and neonatal tetanus can be eliminated globally through immunization and hygienic birth practices. But it has often been difficult to reach women and children in remote communities since the traditional vaccine can only be administered by trained health workers. As a result, last year alone, tetanus claimed the lives of 200 000 newborns and 30 000 women in 57 developing countries.
Since lay people can use the new device, traditional birth attendants, teachers and community workers are being trained to support health workers in immunizing women in communities without access to clinics or health centres.
The pre-filled device has additional advantages:
• It is a single-use needle and syringe, reducing the possibility of transmission of blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
• It has a very small needle, about an inch long, making it easier to dispel fears of needles and vaccinations.
UnijectT® is manufactured by Becton, Dickinson and Company and Bio Farma produces the vaccine and fills the syringe. The two companies have jointly donated 9 million units to UNICEF over the next three years for use in the collaborative effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.
The global campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus is being spearheaded by Ministries of Health, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, PATH, BASICS, Save the Children (US) and other partners. The Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus Elimination Initiative has received major donations from the Government of Japan, the US Fund for UNICEF, the UK National Committee for UNICEF, Ronald McDonald House Charities, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Becton Dickinson.
About maternal and neonatal tetanus
Neonatal tetanus is a deadly disease, common in poor countries, mostly affecting populations with little or no access to basic health care services and education. The disease, which was eliminated in the industrialized world as far back as the 1950s, is still a major killer of infants in the developing world, responsible for no less than 200 000 infant deaths every year and accounting for 14% of all neonatal deaths.
Up to 70% of all babies that develop the disease die in their first month of life. Tetanus occurs as a result of unhygienic birth practices, leading to contamination of the umbilical cord with tetanus spores when it is being cut or dressed after delivery. The disease usually presents itself on the third day after birth, causing the baby to stop feeding due to stiffness of the jaw muscles. The baby then goes into painful convulsions, coma and eventually dies.
Maternal tetanus is also caused by contamination from tetanus spores through puncture wounds, and is linked to unsafe and unclean deliveries. Maternal tetanus is responsible for at least five per cent of all maternal deaths, and accounts for up to 30 000 deaths each year.
Unlike smallpox and polio, complete eradication of tetanus is not possible as the tetanus spores can survive outside the human body, in dirt and in the stools of infected people and animals. The disease can be transmitted without any human contact. Over the 2-year period since the Initiative began (in 1999/2000) the partnership has been able to prevent 15 000 additional newborn deaths.
Reference: UNICEF Press Centre, 26 July 2002 http://www.unicef.org/newsline/02pr46mali.htm