Timely Vaccination is Your Child’s Bodyguard
UNICEF Georgia, September, 2007
Two-month-old Manana Tsiklauri has been taken by her mother, Lali Melia, to Tbilisi's Centre for Preventative Medicine No 6 to get vaccinated. The little girl, of course, does not know she is about to get "poked with a needle" and is not afraid. Her mother, on the other hand, is clearly anxious – after all, this is her first child and that child's first vaccination.
"The neighbourhood doctor told me that my child should get vaccinated at age of two months, so I brought her in” says Lali Melia, “We must protect our kids from infection however possible. I was a little nervous, only because I didn't want her to cry. In general she's a very calm child”.
Little Manana was truly very calm about getting pricked with the needle. She cried just a bit and then settled down soon after. Now dangerous infections such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and hepatitis B cannot harm her at all.
One and a half-year-old Beka Dolidze does not know yet that "it is not manly to cry while getting vaccinated". He could not quite brave it out and started crying after the needle pricked him. But his father, Vano Dolidze, quickly managed to calm him down.
"I haven't missed a single vaccination” says Lia Patsatsia, Beka's mother. “I take him in for all his vaccinations on time; when they call us in, we come. Beka is our third child. The older ones also had all their vaccinations on time. I do everything our neighbourhood doctor tells me to do and I've never had a problem. On the contrary – I would be afraid not to get them vaccinated. I wouldn't want their health to be in danger."
Three-month-old Baiko Tqeshelashvili was also accompanied by both her father and mother.
"We're here for her second vaccination,” says Giorgi Tqeshelashvili, Baiko's father. “She got the first one when she was two months old. Of course I was present then too - we come here together as a family. "
Many people came in for immunization that day at Tbilisi's Centre for Preventative Medicine No 6, which houses two paediatric clinics and one clinic for teenagers. Parents brought in infants and one-year-olds while 14-year-olds went into the revaccination room without their parents. UNICEF supported communication campaign has encouraged many parents to take their kids to the immunization clinics for timely vaccination. The campaign has urged mothers and other caregivers to ensure the timely immunization of their children at two, three and four months of age.
The Head of the Immunization Department Lali Pirtskhalaishvili told us that the centre vaccinates 50 to 60 patients per day. In total, the clinic serves 19,000 children, 1,350 of them less than one year of age.
"As you know, communication campaign on immunization, called “Timely Immunization is your Child's Bodyguard”, began this spring”, says Lali Pirtskhalaishvili. “Based on the indicators for just the short period following the launch of the campaign I can tell you that there has been an increase in overall immunization rates. At our clinic we are achieving full immunization for children aged two, three and four months. In January 47 per cent of two-month-old children were vaccinated while 17 per cent of four-month-old children received their third vaccinations. In May, these figures rose to 56 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively. These are quite high indicators for this early stage in the campaign, which means we will achieve 90 per cent coverage by the end of the year. The ongoing communication campaign is of a paramount importance. The media has played a big role. Educational TV spots and ads, as well as pamphlets, are penetrating into the media. All of this draws parents' attention to this very serious problem”.
"If all vaccinations are administered on time, the child is fully protected at age four months from the infectious diseases he or she has been vaccinated against and from serious life-threatening complications if he/she gets sick, says Tsitso Dilebashvili. “A vaccinated child's body is ready to fend off those invisible infectious agents that he/she was immunized against. The younger a child is when he/she is vaccinated, the less at risk he/she is from these illnesses. Surveys of parents conducted by epidemiologists show that some parents clearly do not understand just what diseases their children are being vaccinated against and just what risks threaten unvaccinated children. Parents often believe unfounded rumours and myths about vaccinations.“
The behaviour change communication campaign on immunization being implemented by the Georgian Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Welfare with the support of UNICEF since February 2007 aims at instilling correct attitudes and behaviours towards timely immunization. It is based primarily on interpersonal communication between parents and neighbourhood nurses. The nurses seek to educate parents about the importance of timely and comprehensive immunization.
"Based on the interviews with mothers of two-, three- and four-month old children at ten clinics and the surrounding territories in Tbilisi since the launch of the campaign, we can say that vaccination rates are up”, continues Tsitso Dilebashvili. “Parents' attitudes towards timely immunization are also encouraging. I do hope that the tireless work of our nurses and cooperation from parents will make our campaign successful."
The public awareness campaign on immunization will last until the end of 2007. As part of the campaign medical personnel throughout the country are being mobilized to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. Nurses who successfully achieve 90-per cent immunization coverage in their communities are given awards by the TBC Bank, one of the partners of the immunization campaign. During the first round of the campaign, 50 nurses from across the whole country were awarded with special plastic cards with a value of GEL 100 (60 $US) from the TBC Bank. There will be another round of the evaluation of the campaign later in the year which will recognize an additional 50 nurses who will also receive awards from the TBC.
Nino Mamuchishvili is one of the nurses who received an award during the first round. She works at Preventative Medicine Centre No 6 and she is very communicable and energetic person. She takes care that no child in her neighbourhood goes unvaccinated. Nino is so successful in this endeavour that her co-workers often joke that "there are no more unvaccinated children, so we should start immunizing grandfathers and grandmothers."
"Our neighbourhood paediatrician takes care of 1,200 children from age 0 to 15 years,” - says Nino Mamuchishvili. “When an infant is one and a half months old - that is, two weeks before the first vaccination - I go to their homes. I explain to the parents why they need to vaccinate their children at an early age, what dangers can come about when their children are not immunized or incompletely immunized and how they should behave after the vaccinations. In order for a parent to trust you, you must love what you do and be confident."
Thanks to the communication campaign and based on the preliminary data, the knowledge about immunization among parents has improved and the coverage of timely vaccination has increased.