World Immunization Week: Reaching the last mile first

Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history, saving millions of lives every year. Vaccines help prevent death and morbidity from many diseases, including influenza, measles, polio, tuberculosis, rubella, tetanus, hepatitis, typhoid, yellow fever, cervical cancer, and more. We know vaccines work; however, there are still nearly 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world today. The majority of these children live in countries with weak health systems and lack access to quality care.

Community health workers (CHWs) can help bridge this immunization gap by ensuring that the most vulnerable communities can access lifesaving vaccines. Living Goods, supported by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, is supporting digitally empowered CHWs to ensure that no child is left behind in Kenya and Uganda.

When visiting families, CHWs assess the immunization status of every child in the household.  Children identified to have missed any vaccines are referred to the nearest vaccination site which could be a health facility or a community outreach site. CHWs then follow up with the family to ensure that any missed vaccines are received.

This work is critical to help children grow up to fulfill their potential, “I am happy to educate caregivers on the importance of getting their children fully immunized so they grow up healthy and strong” says Nandutu Annet, a CHW in Uganda

Ensuring children receive immunizations is more essential now than ever before. Countries and health workers are working around the clock to combat COVID-19. By continuing routine immunizations, countries can keep vaccine-preventable diseases under control while also responding to the developing COVID pandemic. Equipped with personal protective equipment, CHWs and other frontline health workers must ensure vulnerable communities can access primary health services, including vaccines.

This week is World Immunization Week. It is time for us all to renew our commitment to work together and help countries to continue to prevent diseases, protect their communities, and, above all, to prosper.

Written by Stella Kanyerere



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