Protecting the most at-risk children
UNICEF and partners support catch-up campaigns
In the early hours of the morning, Sharon sits in the waiting room at the Nausori Health Centre in Fiji. With her smiling 8-month-old baby Inaaya sitting on her lap, she waits patiently for her name to be called out.
Located less than an hour’s drive from Fiji’s capital Suva City, Nausori Health Centre is one of the busiest health centres in the country. This morning, it’s filled with mothers like Sharon, who have brought their babies for routine check-ups, including for immunizations.
“I have always given priority to my children’s health and wellbeing. That means making sure they get their routine immunization on time,” says Sharon, a mother of three.
Impact of COVID-19 on health services
For over two years, COVID-19 related disruptions interrupted routine immunizations, among other essential health services for children in Fiji and across the world.
This meant children missed out on life-saving vaccines and were at heightened risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.
Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by the measles virus which weakens the immune system and makes children more prone to other infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Yet it is also easily prevented, with just two doses of the safe and effective measles vaccine in early childhood.
Sharon knows this, which is why she was keen to wait for her turn at the health centre this morning. “Vaccines help protect children from serious illnesses,” she says.
The global target is to reach 95 per cent of children with two doses of the measles vaccine. This level produces herd immunity and means that the risk of measles outbreaks is very low. But with children missing out on their routine immunizations during the pandemic, levels worldwide began to drop.
To fill the gaps left by missed vaccinations due to COVID-19, countries launched catch-up immunization campaigns.
In Fiji, the Supplementary Immunization Activity (SIA) and catch-up campaign for measles was launched last year targeting children in three sub-divisions, which include Macuata, Rewa and Nasinu.
Since the launch of the SIA campaign, over 28,000 children aged six months to 11 years have been immunized. And, among them is Inaaya.
Reiterating the importance of vaccines, Sharon’s message to parents is simple: “Get your children vaccinated!”
Supporting vaccination efforts
UNICEF, with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been supporting the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services in the rollout of the catch-up immunization campaign for measles.
To ensure families were well informed on the importance of vaccinations, UNICEF also supported the Ministry in the airing of messages in radios and national television stations.