Macedonia – Vaccines Donation Story

Towards the end of 2008, larger number of youngsters age 15 to 19 have reported to a doctor with swollen glands on the neck. The numbers further escalated in January of 2009, requiring announcement of epidemic outbreak of mumps in 10 larger cities in Macedonia. Especially vulnerable were teenagers, and the Ministry of Health did not have sufficient supplies of vaccines for extraordinary immunization of particular population groups…

The Problem: … The epidemic took large proportions; over 5000 cases were reported in 2008 alone and the fears from further spread were predicting tens of thousands to be affected. The prudent planning of vaccine stocks implied lack of extra supplies for covering the additional demands, and the time was not on patients’ side to initiate procurement procedure.

The Action: Knowing that the country cannot cope with its vaccine supplies and at the same time seeing this as an issue of potentially regional and inter-country significance, the Minister of Health, Dr. Bujar Osmani asked for advice and assistance from Ms. Snezhana Chichevalieva, the Head of the Department for International Cooperation and EU Integration at the Ministry of Health of Macedonia. Within the mandate, as through the inter-governmental SEE Health Network, Ms Chichevalieva has contacted Dr. Angel Kunchev, Chief Public Health Officer of the Ministry of Health of Bulgaria, who was also Coordinator of the SEEHN Regional Health Development Centre on Antimicrobial Resistance in Sofia, to seek the possibilities for emergency support within the SEEHN. After internal coordination, the Ministry of Health of Bulgaria announced that the country has extra stocks of the required vaccine that can be provided, and at the same time decided to donate to its neighbor 5000 doses of the mumps vaccine. The evening of the same day, the Macedonian authorities received the donated vaccines at the border, and the doctors were alerted to get ready for immunizing the next day.

The Outcome: It took less than 24 hours to provide the 500 doses of vaccines to the teenagers in Macedonia – a timeframe in which official procedures cannot provide the required response. Thanks to the collaboration legacy and established professional cooperation within the SEE Health Network, containment of the mumps outbreak was swiftly possible and feasible. The rapid communication between countries in the region through the SEEHN including ministries of health and health professionals in the communicable diseases and public health, helped realize the assistance on both political and technical level. This SEEHN action helped preventing further spread of the mumps outbreak and saving lives of Macedonian citizens in the affected areas.

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