Managing Routine Immunization during a Pandemic
INDHOEK - As the focus shifted towards managing the global Covid-19 pandemic, essential health services such as routine immunization suffered a blow with many children subsequently missing out on their routine immunization.
“The issue of Covid-19 affecting our immunization was felt at a national level,” says Tomas Ukola, the Khomas Health Regional Director. The routine immunization programme and maternal and child health days were disrupted primarily because of lockdowns and the decongestion happening in many health facilities.
“The fact that our health facilities were restricted in terms of providing in person services due to the perceived risk of COVID. All these programmes were suspended,” explained Ukola.
Ukola further explains that the Ministry tried to find alternative venues for providing routine immunization services such as community halls, but this did not always work out well in terms of attracting the eligible clients.
“We did try to decongest our health facilities by finding alternative venues to offer routine immunization so that eligible babies and children are not missed. The alternative venues where we could offer these services were also limited. We did not have much of a choice in terms of space to offer routine immunization. We could not find alternative spaces to offer routine immunization because we could not offer those services in a normal health facility,” explained Ukola.
Meanwhile, Dr Glennson Haihambo, the Senior Medical Officer at the Nankudu District Hospital in the Kavango-West constituency said they try to incorporate vaccination in the consultation rooms when attending to patients.
“When we see patients we try to ask if they are vaccinated not only for COVID-19 but more importantly the paediatric patients for routine immunization. We also go through their health passports to make sure that they are up to date with the vaccination because if we wait until national vaccination days then we will have a lot of people to cover. But if they come for a simple cold and flu we also check if their immunization is up to date as well,” explained Haihambo.
However, when the Ministry of Health and Social Services established the Essential Health Services Pillar with guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) country office, routine immunization services slowly started picking up. “We invested in child health services like immunization, and nutrition and the idea was to improve the quality of care,” said Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, the WHO Country Representative. In addition, WHO has been instrumental in coordinating support from various partners to support Namibia in its response.