A Mother’s Love: Getting vaccinated to protect her children and family
Building confidence on COVID-19 vaccines and routine immunization in the Bangsamoro
Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao - Jennifer Zabate, a 42-year-old mother of four school-aged children, has been waiting for this day for a long time.
For the first time in two years, her children will be able to see the town center. The world through the eyes of her children brings a tear to Jennifer's eye. Jennifer exclaimed, "This is a historic moment for my kids. It's been a long wait from the terrifying lockdown to the days of their vaccination."
Looking back, Jennifer recalls vividly the year she became pregnant with her fourth child and how difficult it was for her to have a baby during a pandemic. She and her husband were worried about the pregnancy. “How am I going to keep myself and my baby safe when the COVID-19 virus is out there waiting to strike?" she asked, citing a number of possible scenarios.
“In the hospital’s critical care ward, pregnant women were more likely to be on a ventilator and die alone. We were afraid to go outside because according to recent reports, the COVID-19 virus is particularly harmful to expectant women.”
“How am I going to keep myself and my baby safe when the COVID-19 virus is out there waiting to strike?"
Vaccines were available during the pandemic's most severe phase but when she discovered she was pregnant, her husband - a soldier - advised her not to get vaccinated. "We'll be fine as long as we follow health protocols in and out of the house," her husband said.
Many people, including their neighbors were vaccinated, but they became increasingly convinced that the effect on her pregnancy would be critical. Jennifer's family was scared, despite experts demonstrating that vaccines do not increase the risk of miscarriage.
"I gave birth and with the arrival of my baby, my fear of contracting COVID-19 grew even stronger. I was afraid I'd pass it on to my baby," she explained. My husband and I decided that vaccinating our three younger children first was in our best interest.”
Vaccine advocates repeatedly encourage people on social media, in print, and on broadcast to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19. This is especially true for pregnant or planning to become pregnant women, as well as those who are breastfeeding.
The Darul Ifta Mufti Abuhuraira Udasan, whose authority and influence reverberate throughout Muslim religious circles, declared: "Vaccines are safe, effective, and halal. There has never been a more urgent need to increase vaccinations." The fatwa was issued as BARMM health workers stepped up the region's COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which has yet to reach 80% of the eligible population.
"I decided to get vaccinated in order to protect the health of my newborn and my other three children. Baby Bryle never missed a dose of her routine vaccines. I no longer have any reservations about COVID-19. Regular work can be done by me at home and outside,” she shared.
"Vaccines are safe, effective, and halal. There has never been a more urgent need to increase vaccinations."
The family has expressed gratitude to the Bangsamoro Ministry of Health (MOH) and Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO) public information campaigns for the life-saving information that they provide to the general public in a timely manner.
"The vaccination requirement for parents is 100 percent. By doing it for themselves, they protect their children from certain diseases, like COVID-19," said Jennifer.
Even though it may be difficult to keep up with routine immunizations while COVID-19 is at its peak, Jennifer has since gone out without fear and has not missed the routine check of baby Avienna Bryle.
"I decided to get vaccinated in order to protect the health of my newborn and my other three children. Baby Bryle never missed a dose of her routine vaccines. I no longer have any reservations about COVID-19."
Because of this, she is grateful to the government of BARMM for proving the value of the vaccine. “It is now widely accepted that vaccines are life-saving. Let's all get vaccinated against COVID-19.”
COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective in children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. "Vaccination helps prevent children from getting seriously sick, including being hospitalized," says Dr. Elizabeth Samama, provincial health officer of the Maguindanao Integrated Health Office.
Special Vaccination Days in BARMM
The BARMM has reached 1.1 million fully vaccinated Bangsamoro, with 1.9 million still unvaccinated (as of June 2, 2022). "With the good benefits supported by strong evidences, pregnant women should get vaccinated," said MOH Minister Dr. Zul Qarneyn Abas.
Doctor Abas thanked the frontline workers for their untiring support, saying it made the Bangsamoro government feel more confident in its accountability to protect children and families during the COVID-19 emergency response and the ongoing vaccination rollout.
In order to meet the National Interagency Task Force's target of at least 80% coverage or approximately 3,487,070 vaccinated population in the Bangsamoro region by June, health workers involved in the BARMM Special Vaccination Campaign made house-to-house rounds to identified eligible populations and set up vaccination hubs in schools and health centers.
"With the good benefits supported by strong evidences, pregnant women should get vaccinated"
Together with the members of the Bangsamoro Inter Agency Task Force on COVID-19 and the Bangsamoro Demand Generation and Communication Task Group, the Bangsamoro government is making an urgent call to eligible populations to get vaccinated from May to June 2022 in order to achieve population protection in the region.
UNICEF supports the Bangsamoro government in its efforts to effectively communicate with and engage the public and other stakeholders to prepare and protect the public's health at the height of COVID-19, and increase uptake on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
"UNICEF is pleased to have spent the last two years assisting the BARMM government in reducing the impacts of the pandemic through an evidence-based communications strategy and contributing to the achievement of population protection when the target is met. We will continue to do so because public health is a critical issue for children's rights and development, and thus for Bangsamoro's future, we will do everything we can to help the region, authorities, and communities address similar public health concerns on a scale comparable to the pandemic”
With the emergence of new variants, the fight against COVID-19 is far from over. “We are confident that by working with UNICEF and the international community, we will be able to address misinformation concerns. We must protect our people, especially our children," said Ahod Ebrahim, Chief Minister of the BARMM government.
"There will be no progress toward achieving population protection without people like you. If we want to encourage cooperation and foster a culture of shared responsibility among all members of society, we need your continued support and guidance,” Ebrahim said.