Routine vaccinations during coronavirus
It is more important than ever to ensure that essential health services continue, including routine vaccinations.
“Rumours were going around about how you shouldn’t take children to hospital,” remembers Bernadette Filaka, who is a registered nurse at the Kitega health centre in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in March, Bernadette has noticed a significant decrease in the numbers presenting at her health centre.
Mothers were scared to take their children for vaccinations and thought that they would contract coronavirus in healthcare settings, or expose their children to contamination. “They also said that if their child was unfortunate enough to have a small fever, they would be treated as though they had COVID-19 and held against their will,” explained Bernadette.
Thanks to the door-to-door awareness-raising initiatives undertaken by UNICEF, vaccination consultations and appointments started to fill up again. Bernadette is relieved to see so many children come back because, in a country where only 35% of children aged 12 to 23 months have received all the recommended vaccinations, the consequences could otherwise be devastating.
“I was not scared to come and vaccinate my daughter, because I have to protect her against measles and polio,” explains 23 year old Magalie. With a mask on her face, Magalie is sat amongst the thirty other mothers who have come to the health centre today to vaccinate their children.
The health centre at Kitega has put new measures in place to limit the risk of catching coronavirus. Every person who comes to the health centre must have their temperature checked, wear a mask and wash their hands as they enter. “The nurses are provided with gloves, hand sanitizer and masks,” explains the nurse, describing all the measures taken to protect the children.
UNICEF, in collaboration with the Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI), is supporting healthcare workers that provide vaccinations in the context of coronavirus, by helping to raise awareness among parents, managing those who refuse, and supervising in interventions and administration.
UNICEF wishes to express its sincere gratitude to Gavi, the Global Partnership for Education, the Solidarity Response Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank Group and the Governements of Canada, Japan, Malta, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden for their immediate and generous contributions to this critical response.