Eight million children vaccinated against measles and rubella during national campaign in Uzbekistan
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 29 September 2011 - Eight million children were vaccinated against measles and rubella (MR) recently, during a week-long campaign in Uzbekistan. With the aim to protect all children between the ages of one and 14 years, against the two highly contagious diseases, vaccination points were opened in all primary health facilities, schools, preschools, and orphanages across the country.
The nationwide effort was led by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Health and supported by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners of the Global Measles Initiative, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the United Nations Foundation. The vaccination campaign will also help bring Uzbekistan closer to reaching its ambitious goal of eliminating measles and rubella by 2015 - the deadline set for the countries in WHO’s European Region.
Ninety five per cent reduction in measles mortality by 2015 over the 1990 baseline, is a global priority for UNICEF to achieve an equitable approach to child survival, growth and development.
Two-and-a-half months of intensive work was invested in preparing the ambitious vaccination roll-out. Nine thousand vaccinators and doctors, and 15,000 nurses were trained and mobilized along with teachers, community and religious leaders as well as social activists. Given a high literacy rate of over 99 per cent among the Uzbek population, more than 2.5 million copies of communication materials were produced for community mobilization across the country.
In addition, UNICEF provided technical assistance in getting the vaccine, injection safety equipment as well as communication and social mobilization activities, and as a result of the Uzbek Government negotiations, the major bulk of MR vaccines were donated by the Serum Institute of India.
“Immunization is a key element of public health strategies to improve child health,” said UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Jean-Michel Delmotte, speaking at the launch of the campaign in Tashkent. “UNICEF remains committed to work with the Ministry of Health and other national and international partners to protect Uzbekistan’s children not only from measles, but other newly emerging diseases.”
Though most Uzbeks recognize the need to vaccinate children to keep them healthy, growing access to different sources of information has led to today’s parents having more concerns, especially about the safety of vaccines. There are also families that refuse to vaccinate their children on religious or other grounds. That is why training of medical workers on safe vaccination and inter-personal communication formed an essential part of the preparations.
To help build trust in vaccine safety, 120 street plays were staged by a professional theatre group with the support of the Ministry of Health and UNICEF in the high-risk areas of Fergana, Tashkent, Samarkand and Surkhandarya provinces. The plays focused on key messages of the campaign.
“I wouldn’t say that the residents of the capital and those of other regions differ much in terms of awareness on health issues,” said Dr. Lola Saidjanova, Deputy Head of Maternal and Child Health Department of Tashkent City. “We manage to get them to vaccination points on time. Moreover, now it’s not only mothers who bring their kids for immunization but fathers and sometimes grandparents too.”