Mothers help make rotavirus vaccine a success in Sudan
By Issraa El-Kogali
Khartoum, October 2011 - It’s a hot and dusty morning as the women, wearing colourful traditional toubs (wraps), begin arriving at the clinic, their babies in their arms.
Sudan is the first African country to make the rotavirus vaccine widely available. It was launched here in July 2011, just in time for the rainy season, a time of year associated with a rise in diarrheal illness especially among children. Dr. Najla says this helps explain the enthusiastic response from the local community.
The vaccine is given to babies in two doses -- the first when the child is between 40 days and three-months-old. The second should be given one month after the first.
At Omdurman Pediatric Hospital, doctors say they are pleased to have access to the new vaccine but that too many cases of diarrheal diseases continue to occur, especially among children who are too old to take the rotavirus vaccine.
“It is not just a matter of statistics,” said Dr. Amani Abdelmoniem, head of the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). “We are very happy to introduce the rotavirus vaccine because we see the direct impact of severe dehydration on small children in our hospitals,” she adds.
Sudan applied to the Geneva-based GAVI Alliance to receive the rotavirus vaccine and was the first African country to get approval in 2010 based on its capacity to reach large numbers of children of the target age. Today, the vaccine is available throughout the country, with mobile units delivering supplies to areas that are harder to reach.
UNICEF played a key role in advocating for the introduction of the vaccine in the country and has been working with partners to implement the global campaign. Support provided includes upgrade of cold chain, trainings, awareness generation and procurement of the vaccine.