Indonesia: Parents and caregivers seek safe routine immunizations for their children during COVID-19
Survey finds that parents who are aware of the safe immunization guidelines implemented by health authorities are more willing to bring their children for vaccination
JAKARTA, 31 August 2020 – Parents and caregivers in Indonesia are still expecting safe routine childhood immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey conducted by the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF.
The survey, carried out by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF from 4 to 13 July 2020 across all 34 provinces in the country, has gathered responses online from nearly 7,000 parents and caregivers of children under the age of two.
According to the survey, half of responding parents and caregivers brought their children for routine immunization over the past two months, with the other half not attending immunization sessions either due to the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic or because their children did not need a vaccine in the given timeframe.
The survey found that public behaviours and practices of seeking immunization services have been significantly altered. Prior to COVID-19, around 90 per cent of children in Indonesia were vaccinated in public health facilities, including health posts (posyandu), health centres (puskesmas) and village birth facilities (polindes). However, a majority of respondents – 43 per cent – indicated that they are now seeking childhood immunizations in private clinics and hospitals due to closures of government-run or public health facilities including posyandu or polindes in their area.
While the survey highlights the unavailability of immunization services caused by disruptions to the health system, it also reflects high demand for vaccines, with parents and caregivers exploring alternative service points that offer immunization services.
Respondents reported feeling reluctant to visit health facilities due to fear of contracting COVID-19 and raised concerns about the closure of immunization services, especially at posyandu and community levels. Parents and caregivers also reported high out-of-pocket costs for obtaining vaccinations at private health facilities, which are otherwise free of charge at public facilities.
“Despite the pandemic, public facilities, namely Puskesmas and Posyandu, remain open and safe, and parents are encouraged to bring their children to be immunized and not to delay immunization,” said dr. Achmad Yurianto, Director General of Ministry of Health’s Disease Prevention and Control. “If a local facility has been temporarily closed, parents and caregivers are advised to ask their community health volunteer (kader) for information about the closest alternative option.”
Even before the pandemic, resistance to immunization was on the rise in Indonesia and has been further exacerbated by vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey found that nearly one third of respondents did not want to bring their children for immunization or were undecided.
But while many parents and caregivers stated that the risk of contracting COVID-19 during vaccination was an important consideration, the survey also found that those who are aware of the safe immunization and health guidelines implemented by the Government were more willing to bring their children for vaccination.
“The science is clear: immunization saves lives and prevents illness, disabilities and death,” said UNICEF Representative Debora Comini. “Even during COVID-19, children can and should be safely vaccinated against other preventable diseases. We must do everything possible so that all children around the country continue to receive these essential services.”
To ensure children continue to receive routine immunizations during the pandemic, the Ministry of Health with support from partners like UNICEF will continue to expand targeted outreach efforts to communities so that parents and caregivers are aware these services are safe and still available in public facilities. Advocacy that investments in immunization are crucial and safe, should also be accelerated to prevent and end parental hesitancy to immunize their children.
UNICEF Indonesia wishes to express its sincere gratitude to key donors, including the Governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Notes to editors
The routine immunization survey is available HERE
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.