Community participation makes immunization a success
Measles and rubella immunization campaign
“Advocacy at the township level is the key to the success of our immunization campaign targeting measles and rubella,” explains Dr. Soe Thet, the Deputy Public Health Officer in Myaungmya Township of Ayeyarwady Region.
The measles and rubella (MR) vaccination campaign was conducted over three days at the end of November 2019 reached 234 townships in Myanmar. It followed phase one in October that covered 96 townships. Now all 330 townships in Myanmar have been reached by the measles and rubella immunization campaign.
Effective advocacy with school head teachers meant Myat Thar, the Administrator of Ward 9 of Myaungmya Township, was able to find and use classrooms at the Tha Htay Gone Primary School for an immunization site. Regular classes continued without interruption.
Before the immunization day, Myat Thar organized local volunteers to put up posters and made public announcements. He sent immunization invitation cards to every house with a child aged between nine months and five and a half years. All 135 children on the list to be immunized turned up. As well, children from nearby wards came for immunization, so the numbers were higher than expected. Local businesses donated a hard-boiled egg and a snack to each child who turned up.
“Using loud speakers to communicate the benefits of immunization and the dangers of the diseases helped to make this immunization campaign very successful,” observed Myat Thar.
Laputta Township has over a thousand households but only one staff member at the District Public Health Department. Zaw Win, the Ka Ka Yan Village Tract Administrator, called for community volunteers to assist at the immunization post. The volunteers also went to homes to pick up children and bring them to be immunized if they didn’t show up at the post.
Locating fisher families can be difficult because they go out fishing in faraway places for extended periods. To overcome this challenge, the village heads contacted the fisher people in advance, to advise them that they needed to bring their children back to the village in time for their immunization. Zaw Win’s three-year-old son was one of the 101 children immunized during the campaign in Ka Ka Yan Village of Laputta Township.
Three of Thein Aye and Ei Ei Moe’s five children live with their grandmother in Ka Ka Yan Village and attend school. The two youngest children, 22-month-old, Kaung Khant Lwin and three-year-old, Moe Ko Ko, go with their parents on fishing trips, but were back in Laputta in time to get their immunizations.
Not always able to come back for the regular immunizations, the parents said they were unsure whether their children were already immunized against measles and rubella.
Traditional birth attendant Aye Myint, 62, is one of the main volunteers for the immunization campaign at Auk Chaung Village, Kyauk Hmaw Village Tract of Laputta Township. After she lost 11 family members including her husband in Cyclone Nargis in 2008, Aye Myint trained as an auxiliary midwife in the Merlin project and began assisting during immunizations and collecting village birth and death data. Over the years and in the process of helping and caring for the health of the village community members, she has gained people’s trust.
When she started as a traditional birth attendant at the age of 18, Aye Myint says it used to be very difficult to convince parents to immunize their children, because they were afraid of side effects. Some people used to hide to avoid the immunizations. But things have changed. Nowadays Aye Myint says it does not take much effort to invite parents and get their cooperation. She worked with the local midwife to organize the community volunteers and during the campaign they immunized the children from six villages. Mass media plays a significant role in convincing parents to immunize their children.
In Set Kyi Su Village, Kan Bet Village Tract of Laputta Township, 47-year-old community health worker Win Win Mar has been one of the main volunteers for the immunization campaign since 2001. She invites parents and children in her village and collects data during the campaign. For regular immunization days, Win Win Mar’s house is used as an immunization site but during this extended measles and rubella campaign, immunizations were given at a religious gathering hall.
Aye Aye Thu, 36, is one of the main volunteers for the immunization campaign at Late Thit Village, Gon Hnyin Tan Village Tract of Laputta Township. She has been an auxiliary midwife since 2010. Her four-year-old daughter Khin Myat Noe Nwe was immunized in the campaign.
The head of Late Thit Village’s 100 households, Hnin Si, aged 52, helps to mark the immunized children.
Hnin Hnin Moe Oo, 23, the Dhamma teacher at Late Thit Village, helps with data collection during the Nationwide MR campaign.
Venerable Monk U Tay Za offered the old Buddhist Ordination Hall as the immunization post for Late Thit Village as the village’s middle school did not have space available as the immunizations took place on school days.
At Yay Twin Yay Kan Village, Kone Thar Village Tract of Myaungmya Township, the Karen Baptist Association Compound was used as the immunization post.
Lecturers at Hpu Saw Bu Bible School, Saw Htoo Khu, 41, and Naw Luna Moo, 36, brought their daughter Naw Charise Moo to be immunized after receiving the invitation for immunization from their daughter’s church-based preschool.
After receiving the immunization
invitation card from the village head, high school teacher Min Swe brought his one-year-old son Phone Mya Min to the immunization post at Yay Twin Yay Kan Village.
“There are many benefits of immunization and out of ten or twenty thousand, only one or two children got minor side-effects. Therefore, I am definitely bringing my son for immunization,” declared the responsible 31-year-old father.