Botswana roll-out of the new Pneumococcal and Rotavirus Vaccines
Gaborone, Botswana, 2 September 2012: At the entrance of Bontleng Clinic in Gaborone one cannot miss the poster of the pneumococcal and Rotavirus national vaccine schedule displayed on the wall. These two vaccines which ensure immunisation against acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea were rolled out nationally in July 2012.
Demand for the Vaccines
On the day of our visit to Bontleng Clinic, the Health Education Assistants were busy attending to children as Caregivers lined up on the benches to have their babies immunised. The new vaccines are in high demand. One Caregiver had come from Sebele Clinic also in Gaborone. “I stay in Phakalane, but there is no government clinic there so we use the Sebele Clinic. I went there this morning but was told that the vaccines were not available and I should check for them here”.
A second Caregiver said she got to know about the new vaccines from TV adverts. She understood that the new vaccines protected children under five against “dangerous diseases such as pneumonia”. An inspection of the Child Welfare Card of a 4 month old baby revealed that the baby had received the vaccines at 2 and 3 months in line with the recommended schedule.
The nation and communities have been mobilized to raise awareness, communicate benefits and create demand for the new vaccines and for immunization services in general. Different channels continue to be used to deliver the key messages, including public media such as newspapers, radio, and television as well as health talks in clinics. All this has been made possible by a number of partners; UNICEF provided technical support in the development of the communication plans; Government procured the vaccines and supported the development of IEC materials for both the community and the health workers. In addition National and District Health Management Teams were trained on the storage and administration of the new vaccines with technical support from WHO.
Acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea remain the major causes of morbidity and mortality amongst children under five years old in Botswana. The vaccines were introduced as part of routine immunization in an effort to reduce the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Under 5 mortality Rate (U5MR) in line with Botswana’s commitment as signatory to the Child Survival: A Promise Renewed Initiative. The 2011 diarrhoea outbreak in Botswana claimed the lives of over one hundred and twenty four (124) children. It is hoped that with the introduction of the Rotavirus vaccine morbidity and mortality amongst children under-five years old due to diarrhoea will be significantly reduced by next winter.