Mozambique, 22 April 2013: Mozambique rolls out new pneumococcal vaccine
By Patricia Nakell
24–30 April is World Immunization Week. Immunization is a successful and cost-effective way to save children’s lives. UNICEF has been a driving force behind universal immunization since the 1980s – behind reaching each and every child.
UNICEF and its partners are now intensifying their efforts to ensure that the poorest and most disadvantaged children have access to immunization.
A clinic in Maputo, Mozambique, rolls out a new vaccine against pneumococcal disease, and hundreds show up for the occasion – and for their jabs.
MAPUTO, Mozambique, 22 April 2013 – The dirt road that leads to the Malhangalene Medical Centre in Maputo has turned to mud. Hard rain has been pelting the capital city throughout the day, making everyone wish the rainy season were over.
Preventive health technicians Felicidade Francisco and Imeldina Cuna have most of their working day behind them. Their office is empty, and the clinic is quiet.
In a couple of days, this will not be the case. A new children’s vaccine will be launched at the clinic, and Ms. Francisco and Ms. Cuna are busy making arrangements.
New vaccine, new protection
The new pneumococcal vaccine PCV10 inoculates children against pneumococcal disease, which is a respiratory illness.
Rolling out the new vaccine is the latest push by the government to see the child mortality rate reach Millennium Development Goal 4 of 75 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2015. In 2011, the rate was 103.
“We began preparing two months ago,” says Ms. Francisco. “The Ministry of Health organized training sessions for us, teaching us about the new vaccine and about the plans to launch it.”
The two women work every day vaccinating babies and children under 5 – there are about 400 of them around this clinic. They have recently begun to tell parents about the new vaccine, inviting them to the launch event.
“Families have, themselves, been asking about it, wanting to give it to their children already,” says Ms. Cuna.
The women agree that the new vaccine will mean a great deal for the health of children in the country, provided that parents commit to the vaccine schedule. They are tasked with following up with families who do not complete the schedule. In this neighbourhood, they say, families are pretty good at adhering to the vaccine schedule of their children. Sometimes, in the case of people from out of town who pass through for the vaccines, families cannot be located for follow-up.
A day of jabs
Two days later, the clinic looks like a very different place, indeed. It has stopped raining, and hundreds of people have gathered in the clinic’s courtyard, mostly mothers and babies.
There is a festive mood in the air. Ms. Francisco and Ms. Cuna don t-shirts made especially for this day. They are running around making sure everything is in place.
“We are proud to be the first locality in the capital city to roll out the new vaccine,” says the head of the clinic to the large crowd.
With so many babies around, one would expect much louder cries and protests, especially when the speeches go on and the sun gets hotter. But most seem content to suckle or to examine each other and their surroundings. Of course, all will change once the vaccination begins.
“It is an intramuscular vaccine,” explains Ms. Cuna, “and, in that sense, it will make some mothers uneasy. The baby will get over it generally much quicker than the mothers.”
Three-month-old Iulani Estevao is one of the first to get the vaccine today. His tiny face wrinkled tight, he lets out a high-pitched scream as Ms. Cuna expertly pushes the needle into his thigh and quickly pulls it out again. Tania Cristina, his mother, looks distraught, but she is quick to let him suckle at her breast, and rocks him until he quiets down.
“He has had a vaccine shot earlier, so I knew it might be easier this time,” she says, visibly relieved. “And it was easier than I thought. It is really important to protect my child from this disease.”
The pneumococcal vaccine PCV10 was launched on 10 April in Mozambique by the Ministry of Health in partnership with UNICEF, the GAVI Alliance, the World Health Organization, the United States Agency for International Development, Save the Children, VillageReach and Fundação para Desenvolvimento da Comunidade.
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