In Focus: Immunization
Immunization is one of the world’s most cost-effective public health interventions, saving millions of lives each year, and protecting children from illness and disability. Vaccines have helped to halve the number of child deaths worldwide since 1990 and represent a sound financial investment: every $1 spent on childhood immunizations returns an estimated $44 in economic and social benefits. Despite the achievements of immunization programmes in the Europe and Central Asia Region in recent decades, reported immunization rates are uneven across countries — from as high as 98 percent in Albania to as low as 19 percent in Ukraine. The regional average for Eastern Europe and Central Asia stands at 92 percent, still not high enough to protect all children from preventable diseases. What’s more, there was no improvement in coverage between 2014 and 2016. At national levels, disparities can be shocking, with the most vulnerable children often missing out on immunization. Across the Region, more than half a million children have missed out on their routine measles vaccination, and many countries continue to face outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that threaten the lives and well-being of children. Challenges to immunization include weak political commitment and health systems, ‘vaccine hesitancy,’ and concerns about the financial sustainability of national immunization programmes in middle-income countries. UNICEF knows that the whole Region benefits when ALL countries achieve and maintain high vaccine coverage at both national and sub-national levels. Download file (PDF, 981,23 KB) July 2018
Interpersonal Communication for Immunization
Health providers have always been an important and trusted source of information for parents and caregivers in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region and beyond. The way they interact with families and the quality of their communication and engagement may have a positive or negative influence on caregivers’ decision to immunize their children. Research in ECA has shown that health workers do not always engage with caregivers in an open and supportive way, often using a patronizing and top-down approach in communication. As a result of time constraints and limited communication capacities, they often fail to understand the immunization-related concerns, fears and expectations of caregivers and fail to identify and address vaccine hesitancy. To help strengthen the communication and community engagement skills of front-line workers, the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECARO) has developed this interactive and evidence-based training package to identify and address their own biases and misconceptions and to equip them with the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need for positive and meaningful interpersonal communication. It consist of a Facilitator Guide, Participant Manual and a set of Presentations. Options Available options Facilitator guide Participant manual Presentation Download file (PDF, 5,62 MB) (PDF, 5,57 MB) (PDF, 11,88 MB) November 2019
Interpersonal Communication for Immunization. Presentation
Health providers have always been an important and trusted source of information for parents and caregivers in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region and beyond. The way they interact with families and the quality of their communication and engagement may have a positive or negative influence on caregivers’ decision to immunize their children. Download file (PDF, 11,88 MB) November 2018
Interpersonal Communication for Immunization. Participant manual
Good interpersonal communication can mean the difference between a child being fully immunized or not at all. This Interpersonal Communication for Immunization Participant manual seeks to help health workers value, acquire, and consistently use the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to communicate effectively with caregivers and communities about childhood immunization. Interpersonal communication for immunization capacity development is critical. Almost every study of health worker practices in the region finds that interpersonal communication for immunization overall is weak. Yet, at the same time, the vast majority of caregivers of young children cite health workers as their primary source of information about immunization. Health workers and health services must close this gap if nations and the world are to achieve universal immunization. Download file (PDF, 5,57 MB) November 2019
Interpersonal Communication for Immunization. Facilitator Guide
Health providers have always been an important and trusted source of information for parents and caregivers in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region and beyond. The way they interact with families and the quality of their communication and engagement may have a positive or negative influence on caregivers’ decision to immunize their children. Research in ECA has shown that health workers do not always engage with caregivers in an open and supportive way, often using a patronizing and top-down approach in communication. As a result of time constraints and limited communication capacities, they often fail to understand the immuni-zation-related concerns, fears and expectations of caregivers and fail to identify and address vaccine hesitancy. To help strengthen the communication and community engagement skills of front-line workers, the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECARO) has developed this interactive and evidence-based training package to identify and address their own biases and misconceptions and to equip them with the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need for positive and meaningful interpersonal communication. Download file (PDF, 5,62 MB) November 2019
What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines
Vaccines save millions of lives each year and a COVID-19 vaccine could save yours. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, providing strong protection against serious illness and death. WHO reports that unvaccinated people have at least 10 times higher risk of death from COVID-19 than someone who has been vaccinated. There is also evidence that being vaccinated can help prevent you from spreading the virus, so it protects people around you. It is important to be vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn, even if you already had COVID-19. Vaccines offer more reliable protection than natural immunity. Getting vaccinated is a safer way for you to develop immunity from COVID-19 than getting infected. The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, but no vaccine provides 100 per cent protection. Some people will still get ill from COVID-19 after vaccination or pass the virus onto someone else. Therefore, it is important to continue practicing safety precautions to protect yourself and others, including avoiding crowded spaces, physical distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask.
UNICEF handed over 223 refrigerated vehicles to the Government of Uzbekistan
Today, UNICEF handed over 223 refrigerated vehicles to the Government of Uzbekistan. The vehicles support the Government’s efforts to strengthen the country’s immunization cold chain and will ensure vaccines are kept at optimal cold temperatures needed to retain their effectiveness when are delivered to regional and district health centres across the country. Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Behzod Musaevm, accompanied by the Minister of Health, Dr. Abdukhakim Khadjibaev, presided over the handover ceremony was, noted that the consignment of vehicles was timely. Earlier, the Government of Uzbekistan had announced the first shipment of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, was due to arrive in coming days. UNICEF Representative, Mr. Munir Mammadzade said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated UNICEF’s push for to make vaccines available to all within the framework of the Health System Strengthening Programme.” The vehicles are valued at more than USD 2 million and was supported by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). Over the last 3 years UNICEF and partners have invested nearly USD 20 million to support the Ministry of Health to strengthen the country’s national immunization programme. UNICEF supported the construction of vaccine warehouses at national, regional and district levels, helped procure and install cold rooms, freezers and refrigerators, and vehicles to transport of vaccine. As well, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health in the development of Uzbekistan’s vaccine logistic management information system. The current efforts are historically significant and will improve the national immunization system and in the context of COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, and well beyond. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others.
Going for a vaccination with my cousin Emina
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt, it just stings a little. It’s easier if you look the other way,” says Emina to Irma as they fix each other’s hair. This is an important day for Irma Fafulić, who has already prepared a clothing combination to wear and asks us to wait for her while she changes in another room. Both girls soon return to the living room of Irma’s humble home, dressed up and with their hair done to their liking, but now they are faced with another dilemma: they are not sure if their protective facemasks will match the rest of their outfits so they deliberate on which one to wear to the vaccination point. The atmosphere in the living room of the Fafulić family in the village of Varda near Kakanj is almost festive: they are visited by Edin Sejdić, mediator from the Kakanj-based Roma Support Centre “Romalen”. Six-year-old Emina and her mother Fatima Dedić from Visoko are currently visiting the Fafulić family, so the girls have been inseparable for days. “I call her sister even though we’re actually cousins, and I’m a little older than Emina,” says Irma with a smile full of crooked milk teeth and explains that she has completed her second grade online due to the COVID-19 situation. Now, she says, she is deservedly enjoying her school holidays after a very challenging period when she had to compete with other relatives for access to a single shared mobile device so that she could attend her online classes. When asked what she liked most about school this year, she retorts right off the bat: “My teacher Dženita!” The rest of the Fafulić-Dedić household listens attentively to Edin, whom they have known for a long time, and who has stopped by today to escort their Irma to the local health centre for a vaccination. Statistics show that only four percent of Roma children in BiH are vaccinated Roma girl UNICEF/ Majda Balić Raising awareness about the importance and effectiveness of immunization in Roma communities is one of the regular activities implemented by the Kakanj-based Roma Support Centre “Romalen” Edin is kind of a link between the health-care system and the residents of this small community, and as a true man of the people, he explains the advantages of immunization, dispelling misconceptions and rebutting arguments of even the most fervent opponents of vaccination in the audience. He is one of the 16 mediators trained to do outreach work and help Roma communities with vaccination procedures in four cantons with sizeable Roma population (Zenica-Doboj, Sarajevo, Central Bosnia and Tuzla). Raising awareness of the importance and effectiveness of immunization in Roma communities is one of the regular activities implemented by the Kakanj-based Roma Support Centre “Romalen” under the project Immunization for Every Child in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), in cooperation with UNICEF BiH. Edin is a link between the health-care system and the residents of this small community. Edin is a link between the health-care system and the residents of this small community. He admits that doing outreach work is not always easy, adding that people often confuse going to the doctor for an injection for receiving vaccines, and that there are still those who remain unconvinced of the benefits of immunization. But Edin has a way with people, patiently walking them through the entire process, emphasizing benefits and dispelling fears. By the end of the project, as many as almost 1500 families in the four cantons will have been informed about the benefits and effectiveness of immunization, as well as vaccination procedures and options. Mediators like Edin also provide assistance by escorting the youngest members of the community to vaccination points. “Thanks to this project, you can also retroactively receive the vaccines you missed,” says Edin, adding that many Roma are not at all aware of what needs to be done, or when. Mediators are therefore an invaluable asset to the community as they motivate, inform and mobilize people, and prepare the ground for the child’s immunization. Each mediator has a vaccination schedule for every child, and reminds parents when it is time to go to a health facility. Mediators are carefully selected from among their communities, they are persons of trust, and are usually involved in supporting the community through other projects – so they are familiar to the people they interact with and have already gained trust of the local residents. The same is true of the Fafulić family, who are now ready to have their Irma vaccinated after receiving relevant information from Edin. Mujo Fafulić Mujo Fafulić, president of the Kakanj-based Roma Support Centre “Romalen” “Roma mediators have a vital role to play in Roma communities. Statistics show that only four percent of Roma children in BiH are vaccinated. This project aims to raise this immunization rate, even using statistics on the mortality of unvaccinated children as one of the arguments,” explains Mujo Fafulić, president of the Kakanj-based Roma Support Centre “Romalen”, the organization implementing the project. “These are one-on-one conversations, with mediators visiting communities to check on the spot what the vaccination rates are and whether children are vaccinated at all, as well as which vaccines they have received, while also motivating parents to have their children immunized if they have not done so before. "By the time they reach adulthood, children should complete the vaccination cycle, and mediators are doing outreach work to explain the benefits of on-schedule immunization, as well as the adverse consequences of failing to do so." Mujo Fafulić Emina has already received the vaccines scheduled for her age, and she confidently shares her last words of advice with her cousin Irma before they leave, so that there are two parallel conversations going on in the living room – adults talk about the benefits of immunization and health care, and the little girls, holding hands, have their own conversation about what the needle looks like and where on the hand the nurse will give Irma a jab. Rubbing their hands with disinfectant, with their facemasks on, the girls extend their hands to the mediator, ready to go – Emina, being more experienced, will escort Irma to help her go through this whole experience as painlessly as possible. Irma’s parents Jasmina and Nermin are staying at home and waving to the girls from the window. Holding hands, with their fingers intertwined in a clasp that shows care and love, the children set out together on their trip to the health centre. The trip they are taking is one that is recommended to everyone as it promises better health and protection against diseases that are still lurking about and are far from being eradicated. Dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative in BIH confirms that by saying: “Vaccination is the best protection from communicable diseases. Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s low immunization rates, 68% full immunization and only 4% among Roma children, mean that children in this country are at high risk of getting vaccine preventable diseases resulting in outbreaks, particularly measles outbreaks. Currently, UNICEF is working with two Roma NGOs, Kali Sara and Romalen, to raise awareness on the importance of vaccination in Roma communities, by connecting with health institutions, Public Health Institutes and ministries with Roma communities through Roma health mediators to reach the most vulnerable children. This will also reduce equity gaps and will protect all children in BiH from vaccine-preventable diseases.” All children, regardless of the country or circumstances in which they live, have the right to develop and thrive. As a key component of the human right to health, immunization saves millions of lives and protects children against vaccine-preventable diseases. Immunization saves two to three million lives each year. Vaccines now protect more children than ever before, but nearly one in five infants miss out on the basic vaccines they need to stay alive and healthy. Low immunization levels among poor and marginalized children compromise gains made in all other areas of maternal and child health. This material is produced within the initiative Increase awareness on the importance of vaccination with special focus on Roma communities - Immunization for every child! UNICEF Country Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s programme on immunization, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through UNICEF Headquarters. We would also like to thank UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office for their support.
Vaccinations with a smile in Uzbekistan
Baby Imona is visiting the clinic, but there is no fear or tension, because Nurse Aziza Abduazimova knows how to put her and her parents at ease. Aziza’s open face and sweet, cheerful manner make all of the children she meets comfortable. “I always meet babies with a smile. Then I answer all of the parents’ questions about vaccinations so that they feel they can trust me with their child’s health. I make the child comfortable, and chat and play with them. I use toys to create a relationship before vaccinating them.” Aziza has been immunising children at Polyclinic #47 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for six years now. She says that she loves her job. “I’m a mother myself. I have three sons aged 15, 12 and 10 years old who are all vaccinated and growing up healthy. I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation in getting my children vaccinated, and I am happy to help other mothers raise strong and healthy kids.” Aziza believes that it’s much better to vaccinate a child and prevent a disease than treat the sometimes-serious consequences of an illness. “Polio can cause permanent paralysis. Mumps, a common childhood disease, can make boys infertile, and measles can be fatal. It’s not just the consequences for the individual, either. A child who hasn’t been vaccinated is putting everyone else at risk, including babies and unvaccinated adults.” Nurse Aziza Abduazimova administers the polio vaccine to baby Imona. Nurse Aziza Abduazimova administers the polio vaccine to baby Imona. However, despite all the evidence about the safety of vaccines to prevent serious disease, some parents are still hesitant. “It’s a natural urge for a mother to protect her baby, and some mothers are scared to cause their baby the pain of an injection,” Aziza says. “Believe me, when I first started this job, I used to cry along with the babies, but then I realised that by causing this brief moment of pain, I’m preventing a lot of future suffering.” Some parents read things on the internet that scare them. Aziza says, “I follow a lot of discussions on the web and I often post evidence to prove that they needn’t worry. All the vaccines used in Uzbekistan meet international standards.” Aziza recalls a young mother who didn’t vaccinate her first son. “He got every childhood disease, one after the other, including Hepatitis A. With my encouragement she decided to vaccinate her younger son. He has grown up very healthy. Now when people see them together, they assume the younger one is older because he wasn’t sick as often, he’s so much taller and stronger than his brother. His mother tells everyone her story. She says, ‘If I’d had my older son vaccinated, I wouldn’t have gone through all these troubles.’” Aziza helps parents who have concerns about vaccinations to meet mothers and fathers with children who have been fully immunised. “Peer to peer conversations are really helpful because parents trust fellow parents and they can see the results.” She believes being a good vaccinator isn’t just about following procedures but having the right attitude: “There was one lady who came from outside our clinic’s catchment area. She was surprised to find me so cheerful and friendly. In her previous experiences staff had been professional, but she told me my friendliness has made such a difference to her children; now they feel at ease during and after vaccinations. It makes such a difference how you treat people." "Children pick up a lot from how you deal with them—they connect with a smile.” - adds Aziza. Nurse Aziza puts baby Imona at ease with a toy after administering a vaccine. With toys and smiles, baby Imona is at ease after receiving a vaccine. “My main message to parents would be to follow the vaccination calendar. Don’t wait or delay; it has been developed to protect against the most common diseases in this country and vaccinating on time gives your child the best protection.” Aziza gives baby Imona a last cuddle. She smiles, “Parents share the hope that their child will grow up healthy. In my work as a vaccinator, I can help make that happen.” UNICEF in Uzbekistan trains health professionals across the country to vaccinate children and works closely with the Government to ensure the vaccine system is safe and can reach all children with life-saving immunizations.
Protecting children against measles in Romania
Parents living in Strehaia, a Roma community in South-West Romania, nod and smile in relief after watching a short video shown by their local physician on the benefits of immunizing their children. The physician answers questions from the parents before they gather their children and move to the next room where all of the children are vaccinated. The children range in age from young toddlers to 18 years old. The young ones hold their mothers’ hands tightly, but the older ones laugh and ask to watch the film again. The film is part of UNICEF Romania’s ongoing support to the Ministry of Health’s efforts to increase immunization coverage and prevent the spread of measles. Vaccination coverage in Romania has declined since 2000. In 2017, only 75 per cent of children had received two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine – a coverage rate far below the recommended 95 per cent needed to protect all children. As a result of low immunization coverage, Romania has experienced a measles outbreak, with over 15,000 people affected since 2016. This includes 59 deaths, the majority being children. As part of ongoing efforts to increase immunization coverage, in July 2018 Romania’s Ministry of Health launched a door-to-door catch up campaign to vaccinate children who missed their vaccinations. In support, UNICEF developed a series of materials to provide parents with easy to understand, factual information about the benefits and process of children being immunized. These materials include the short film watched by families in Strehaia. The film is shown to parents and families in the most vulnerable communities in Romania - people living in hard to reach areas, those affected by poverty, and Roma communities. These communities often have children with the lowest rates of immunization. The film talks about the necessity and benefits of vaccination and, at the same time, addresses the most common vaccine-related questions from parents: Is it safe to vaccinate my child? What if she/he catches another disease? What if my child gets sick after the vaccination? Is the vaccine free of charge? A girl is vaccinated at a community center in Buhuși, in Eastern Romania as part of the UNICEF and WHO supported immunization catch-up campaign. A girl is vaccinated at a community center in Buhuși, in Eastern Romania as part of the UNICEF and WHO supported immunization catch-up campaign. “In the beginning parents did not want to vaccinate their children, but then they put their trust in us. We told them vaccines are good and we encouraged them to ask the doctor all the questions they have during the campaign. So they were able to have a clear picture on the benefit of vaccination,” said Gabriela Stan, a health mediator in the town of Buhuși, in Eastern Romania. Gabriela was part of the team that went door-to-door to inform parents from vulnerable communities about the benefits of vaccination. Although there have been positive developments in reaching vulnerable children with lifesaving MMR immunizations over the past few months in Romania, until the coverage rate reaches 95 per cent, children will remain at risk.
Protecting young children from vaccine-preventable diseases
Vaccination is one of the world’s safest and most cost-effective public health interventions. Yet growing distrust in science, coupled with misinformation, means that vaccination coverage rates are declining in some countries and communities, resulting in an upsurge of vaccine-preventable diseases. Research shows that those caring for children…
Vaccination drive ongoing to protect children from deadly measles outbreak in Ukraine
Uliana Dziuba, 36, is holding the hands of her two young children as they wait to receive their vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Unlike her brother Volodia, nine-year-old Maryana is anxious, but Uliana knows how important today is. “I used to refuse to vaccinate the children against measles,” she says. “Once, I refused because they were sick at the time. Another time, there was a very powerful anti-vaccination campaign on social media. But Maryana got measles at age three and now I’m very worried that my son will get sick. I am vaccinating both of them for the first time today.” The pair are among thousands of children now being vaccinated in Lviv region, Ukraine, after the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF launched an immunization drive. It is using a combined approach: teams of mobile doctors are working to reach school-age children while local clinics are increasing their ability to vaccinate more children. The drive is happening as UNICEF warns that global cases of measles have surged to alarmingly high levels – including in countries that had previously been declared measles free – eroding progress against this highly preventable, but potentially deadly disease. Maryana Dzuba, 9, receives her first dose of MMR vaccine on 21 February 2019 in the medical centre of the Lapaivka village school, Lviv region, Ukraine, as part of a three-week long catch-up vaccination campaign to increase MMR coverage among school aged children in the region. Maryana Dzuba, 9, receives her first dose of MMR vaccine on 21 February 2019 in the medical centre of the Lapaivka village school, Lviv region, Ukraine, as part of a three-week long catch-up vaccination campaign to increase MMR coverage among school aged children in the region. In Ukraine alone, according to Government data, there were more than 53,000 cases of measles in 2018. Another 24,000 people were infected just in the first two months of this year. The situation in Lviv region is particularly dangerous, with approximately 11,000 measles cases in 2018, and up to 50,000 unvaccinated children in the region. Of the 634 children attending Volodia and Maryana’s school in Lviv, only 13 remain unvaccinated due to the ongoing immunization drive. During the first two days, a total of 2,030 children were vaccinated. For many it was the first time. The vaccination drive also helps combat negative attitudes towards vaccination, as well as shortages in vaccine supply through 2009-2015. “Teachers and medical professionals have been campaigning for vaccinations,” says school headteacher Tetiana Malieryk. “We held all-school meetings and parent-teacher conferences, where the danger of measles was explained. Now fewer parents are refusing vaccinations and those children who did not receive vaccinations because of their parents’ beliefs are being vaccinated.” Next in line for vaccinations at the school in Lviv are six-year-old twins Vitalina and Yuliana. The girls and their mother Olesia Kechur, 37, are dressed in traditional embroidered clothing. This will be their second vaccination against measles. Twins Vitalina and Yuliana Kechur, 6, are given a check-up by the doctor before receiving MMR vaccination on 21 February 2019 in the medical centre of the Lapaivka village school, Lviv region, western Ukraine. Twins Vitalina and Yuliana Kechur, 6, are given a check-up by the doctor before receiving MMR vaccination on 21 February 2019 in the medical centre of the Lapaivka village school, Lviv region, western Ukraine. “The mother is very responsible about vaccinations,” reports Halyna Narolska, their doctor. “They get all of them and don’t miss anything.” Narolska has been a doctor for over 30 years. During this time, she says, she has not seen a single complication from an MMR vaccine. “Temperature may increase and there may be rash on day four, but neither has happened to a single child that we have vaccinated,” she says. “The only way to stop the outbreak is to vaccinate all children.” “There is a measles outbreak all over the world,” remarked Ukraine’s Deputy Minister for Healthcare Olha Stefanyshyna, during a recent visit to Lviv. “However, Ukraine is sadly a leader among the European countries. This is why we need to take extraordinary measures. I would like to say that this campaign is aimed primarily at children who missed their vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella in the past. Today, we have better coverage of children who are born now.” UNICEF and its partners are supporting governments to reach millions of children in countries around the globe with life-saving immunization. However, stronger commitment and actions to vaccinate more children and protect them from preventable diseases is critical – including in Ukraine.