This is according to World Vision South Africa in partnership with AMREF Germany, Gesundes Afrika. The two organisations have partnered to launch a catch-up immunisation programme in Limpopo and Eastern Cape as an intervention.
“The reality is that accessing hard-to-reach rural areas is a problem for vaccine distribution. Add to this the issue of myths surrounding vaccines which disproportionally affects rural communities where there is limited access to information,” said Moruti Pitso, child protection and advocacy manager at World Vision South Africa.
In a statement issued by both organisations, pre-Covid-19 South Africa was already listed as one of the top 10 countries worldwide battling to increase the number of children with access to routine vaccinations.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the sharp drop in SA national immunisation coverage (from 82% in April 2019 to 61% for April 2020) has sparked concerns of a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases for children under five years of age.”
The ‘Increasing the uptake of routine vaccinations for vulnerable children in rural areas of South Africa’ (IUVSA) project is aimed at assisting the department of health’s expanded programme on immunisation. The intervention also aims to increase the uptake of neglected child vaccinations amongst the target population through key messaging and efficient delivery of routine immunisations to children in rural areas.
“South Africa is experiencing Covid-19 hesitancy, with many refraining from visiting health facilities due to fear of transmission. By bringing healthcare to the patients, parents, and caregivers, they don’t have to travel long distances and risk being exposed to Covid-19,” said Pitso.
She said under normal circumstances, children in rural areas depend on the department of health’s school visitations for vaccine administration, but resources, including medical personnel, have been redirected to Covid-19 response. She said schools have also turned their efforts to education-related learning catchup programmes, leaving a service delivery vacuum of vaccinations in the process.
“What is worrying is that the vaccination of girls who turned nine years of age should be receiving immunisation against cervical cancer as part of the school health programme. Another major concern is the sharp decrease in the coverage rate of the second dose of the measles vaccine from 77% in April 2019 to 55% in April 2020. “Protecting communities and health workers in high-risk Covid areas should not mean that children are permanently affected”, said Pitso.
The IUVSA launched in Limpopo last week at Ga-Sekororo and Sekgosese targetting children from 0 and older. The programme will address routine vaccinations such as BCG, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio.
“Areas being targeted have been chosen based on lack of service delivery, hard-to-reach health care facilities, outdated information, and widespread myths about Covid-19 within the community. There is a communication gap in these areas, which are the main areas to target to significantly increase access to childhood vaccination. “Government campaigns are usually television focussed, so they are not reaching the people who really need to be reached. Our job now involves a rigorous communication effort with communities at grass root level,” said Pitso.
Article first published on https://letabaherald.co.za/106370/catch-up-immunisations-of-children-launch-in-limpopo/