Door-to-door visits to boost vaccination rates
Lifesaving vaccines reach children and families in remote and rural areas
Zita village, Al Qussair area, Homs, Syria: Al Qussair town is located 38 kilometres southwest from the city of Homs. During the past few years, amid the ongoing conflict, many families have been forced to flee their homes.
For children and families who have been displaced by conflict accessing healthcare services and following up on children’s routine vaccination schedules can be difficult. This is the situation in Al Qussair – routine immunization coverage and COVID-19 vaccination rates are low.
“I have overseen the Al Qussair rural area since 2020. We come here regularly, talk to people, and vaccinate adults against COVID-19 and children against childhood diseases,” said Maisa, 42, the team leader for the mobile vaccinators. “Some people still have concerns about the vaccines’ side effects. It is our role is to talk to families, alleviate their fears and explain the importance of following the vaccination schedule,” Maisa explained.
“Some people still have concerns about the vaccines’ side effects. It is our role is to talk to families, alleviate their fears and explain the importance of following the vaccination schedule.”
UNICEF’s activities include securing and distributing vaccines. In parallel, teams of volunteers conduct regular door-to-door visits, set up informative sessions with families and community leaders, and use educational messages to raise awareness of the importance of vaccinations in communities to reach the highest number of families.
“These social interventions can make a difference in communities’ behaviour,” Giath said. He leads the volunteers on the ground while disseminating the informative messages and works with UNICEF, as a facilitator, in the field office in Homs.
These social interventions can make a difference in communities’ behaviour.”
Vaccinating children is crucial for child survival. In Syria, two out of five sub-districts do not have functional primary health care facilities. Mobile teams provide critical support in following up on children’s routine immunization schedules in areas with low coverage.
“My three daughters – 17-month-old twins, Zainab and Zahraa, and my 3-year-old Tala - have never been vaccinated. My husband and I were not convinced of immunizing them. A young team visited us several times and thoroughly explained the importance of vaccinations. Today, we are ready to do it,” explained their mother.
UNICEF and WHO, together with the Ministry of Health, work tirelessly to vaccinate the highest number of children across the country.
“In our communities, particularly in the remote ones, there is sometimes lack of information or incorrect information available. Disseminating accurate information can be lifesaving.”
“I got COVID-19 once. It was terrible and I don’t want to go through the same difficulty again.” Hala, 56, said. She is thankful that the team came to her house as both of her legs are broken and she cannot walk.
Hala’s husband Ali, 60, has received three doses and tried many times to convince his wife to take her first shot. “I encouraged my wife to take a COVID-19 vaccine, we are elderly people and need it the most,” Ali said.
In 2022, through the immunization activities and campaigns, UNICEF and WHO, with the Ministry of Health, have reached nearly 2 million children with routine immunization across Syria, and more than 1,8 million adults with COVID-19 vaccines. These activities were funded by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.
UNICEF’s community engagement activities on COVID-19 and awareness raising messaging on routine immunization have been conducted with support from UNICEF’s Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and The Government of Italy. More than 2,5 million people across the country have been reached this year.