Parents and caregivers brave the COVID-19 lock down to immunize their children
"Immunization is a must," says Father
In many countries the COVID-19 lock down has interrupted routine immunization services exposing children to preventable diseases. Mothers, fathers, caregivers are faced with various challenges to reach health facilities to seek for health care services including immunization for their children as some immunization centres are closed while others lack vaccines.
In Uganda, immunizations services are still available at health facilities and mothers, fathers, and caregivers are enduring long distances to reach the health facilities to have their children vaccinated. The health workers are present and taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their clients from COVID-19. To support continuity of immunization during the lockdown and beyond, on 24 April 2020, Uganda received 3,842,000 doses of bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV). The vaccines were procured by UNICEF with Government of Uganda funding to support ongoing routine immunization services throughout the country. The vaccines will protect children from killer diseases.
As we conclude World Immunization Week and Africa Vaccination Week (24 to 30 April), we celebrate those parents and caregivers who have ensured their children don’t miss out on the much-needed protection of their children through immunization, despite challenges to access the health facilities.
One-year old Donatel Aredo flashes a smile after receiving her vitamin A drops during the COVID-19 lockdown. With no private and public transportation, Herbert Aredo didn’t hesitate to take his daughter to the health facility for her routine immunization. He endured the two-hour journey to and from his home. “I brought my daughter for immunization because I don’t want her to fall sick. I am responsible for her health. I know that immunization will strengthen her immune system which will help her fight other diseases,” Herbert shared.
At the immunization centre, Donatel was weighed too. She is growing well and healthy. “We have never missed any immunization appointments,” says Herbert. No wonder Donatel is healthy and strong.
He jumps up and about. Meet one-year old Ojara Benedict. He just received his vitamin A boost. Benedict was brought by his father, sister and mother from a very far away location. “I want my children to be healthy, that is why I brought Benedict for immunization,” says Justin Okey, Father
Vaccines work. Happy and healthy one-year old Benedict. When the lockdown is over, he will be safe interacting with other children because he is protected from other diseases.
Angel Kabahuma looks away as her two and a half months old baby, Nijab Mayanja is vaccinated. “I urge parents to bring their children for immunization. I know there are no cars allowed to move but if you start early and walk slowly, you can make it to the facility.”
Baby Najib got polio drops too. “I don’t want my child to get diseases like polio. I don’t want him to become lame. When children are not immunized, they become sickly, malnourished and are unhealthy,” says Angel.
Biira Annet is all smiles as her two months and a half daughter, Fatuma Ayikuru, receives the rotavirus vaccine that will protect her from diarrhea. This vaccine is saving the lives of thousands of children in Uganda by combating severe diarrhea.
Fatuma was also vaccinated against other killer diseases. Safe and protected, she takes a nap as her mother prepares to trek back home. She walked for an hour to the health facility. “I came because I want to protect my baby from bad diseases like measles. I didn’t mind the distance because all I wanted was to have my baby immunized. I am even willing to support mothers who can’t walk this far. For instance, I volunteered to support my neighbor who has twins by helping her carry one baby and we shall bring the twins here next week for immunization,” said Annet.
“Immunization is a must!” “When I was growing up, I was told that immunization is important for children if they are to grow up healthy and free from disease. Immunization has protected all my children from the bad diseases like polio, measles and other,” Okuru Brian as he holds his son Canan Okuru. He urged all parents to bring their children for immunization despite the lockdown before reminding them that there are certain diseases children shouldn’t suffer from especially if they can be prevented through immunization.
The immunization session begins with a health education session of the importance of immunization and need to keep appointments as scheduled on the immunization cards. The health workers also sensitize the parents and caregivers on the coronavirus and ensure social distancing at the immunization clinic. “Vaccines are important, they protect children from serious diseases like measles, polio, diarrhea, among others, that kill children especially those under five years of age,” Sarah Kisakye, Enrolled mid-wife.