Vaccination: from refusal to acceptance

During each polio vaccination campaign, community relays mobilize to vaccinate as many children as possible.

Rimoyal Ratnan (translated from French by Sophie Bassi)
16 July 2019

 

Beya Tshitende is a community relay committed to the fight against polio in the province of Kasaï, in the center of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During each polio vaccination campaign, Beya goes to the houses to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.

During the last vaccination campaign supported by USAID, Beya met Richard, father of a two-year-old child. While Beya was trying to convince the family to vaccinate their child, Richard was fiercely opposed. "He just took the fetishes for his protection for life," said the father. Witchcraft is omnipresent in the collective imagination and to protect itself from this witchcraft, the population resorts to "counter-witchcraft" and fetishes.

In Richard's mind, the polio vaccine would destroy fetishes and expose the whole family to illness and unhappiness. It was out of the question to vaccinate young Kabongo. Convinced of the importance of vaccination, Beya mobilized all his energy to convince Richard: the vaccine does not weaken the fetishes but reinforces the protection.

There is no medicine to cure polio, and vaccination is the best way to prevent this disabling disease. "Really ? I did not know," admitted Richard after more than an hour of discussions and discussions. A health worker administered the drops of vaccine to Kabongo and Richard himself engaged in the fight

"I want to do the same work that you are doing," told the father to Beya. The next day, Richard and Beya identified several unvaccinated children and convinced their parents to vaccinate them. "I want to erase the bad example that I gave," concludes Richard who is now mobilized alongside community relays.

Richard is committed to mobilize his community to accept the vaccine during future polio immunization campaigns.

In May 2019, more than 570,000 children across Kasai Province were vaccinated to boost immunity against polio. During the next vaccination campaigns, 700,000 additional children will benefit from the protective drops.