Boosting routine childhood immunization: free for every child with the support of the European Union
Funding from the European Union is helping reverse a decline in routine immunization and protecting Lebanon’s children from devastating but preventable diseases including measles, polio and meningitis
Lebanon’s PHCCs provide routine immunizations free of charge
Today, in Lebanon and with the support of the European Union, UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Health continue to provide all essential routine vaccines in more than 800 public primary healthcare facilities to reach all children residing in the country. What’s more, the vaccines are safe and provided free of charge when administered by a registered nurse.
Immunization is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions to date and globally averts an estimated two to three million deaths every year. Unfortunately, with onset of COVID-19 in Lebanon, many parents stopped taking their children to the vaccination appointments at the nearest primary health care centres and dispensaries.
Working together, the European Union, UNICEF and Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health ensure that life-saving vaccinations do not fall victim to the pandemic.
Johana, the mother of two young boys, kept her children’s immunizations up to date throughout 2020. She’s a vocal advocate of vaccines and a regular visitor to her local public health care centre in Tripoli.
“I’ve been bringing my boys here since they were born”, she says, adding, “and whenever a vaccine is due, they call me. We haven’t missed any so far”.
She’s concerned that some parents don’t understand the importance of routine immunization. “Every child should be vaccinated – it’s the only way to protect against many deadly but preventable illnesses. It’s a quick service here, and the experience is friendly and personal. When we come, they also check the children for other conditions by measuring their height, weighing them, and giving a general examination”.
Plus, of course, vaccines are provided free of charge when administered by a registered nurse.
The waiting room is busy, and social distancing regulations within the bright, modern facility are in force. Open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; nurses will process and immunize around one hundred children during every session. Numbers attending the facility have now returned to pre-pandemic, as parents take the opportunity to update their children’s healthcare status.
“I come to this centre because I’m always comfortable, and they treat us well”, reports another mother, Halloum. “The service is equal to that of private clinics; it’s well organized, and nurses are well-trained. In addition, they follow preventive procedures against coronavirus”.
As the pandemic continues, there is a risk of lasting negative impacts on routine immunization coverage. Continued disruptions and low uptake of childhood immunizations would have created pathways to disastrous outbreaks in 2021’s Lebanon.
Now, every one of Lebanon’s 800 PHCCs is equipped to provide the country’s children with all-important routine immunizations – free of charge.
Amale leaves the PHCC clutching the hand of her daughter and says, “My advice to all my friends with children is not to miss any scheduled vaccines - they protect their children from infectious and potentially deadly diseases”.
With the support of the European Union, UNICEF continues to play a pivotal role in supporting Lebanon’s current and future immunization efforts. Vaccines keep children healthy and alive by protecting them against diseases, and every child that receives their scheduled vaccination is a potential life saved.