Pretoria, South Africa, 20 February 2018 - Health experts from over 15 countries have begun a two-day meeting in Pretoria, South Africa to agree on a range of evidence-based actions aimed at improving communications on routine childhood vaccinations in the African Region.
Vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases. However in most African countries, millions of children still die from vaccine preventable diseases. . There are various reasons for this; some parents lack access because of poor quality health services, long distances or lack of money. Other parents may not trust vaccines or the healthcare workers who provide them, or they may not see the need for vaccination due to lack of information or misinformation about how vaccinations work and the diseases they prevent.
Speaking on behalf of Dr Richard Mihigo, the Programme Manager for Immunization and Vaccine Development at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr Joseph Okeibunor, Social Scientist at the WHO Regional Office for Africa noted that communication with parents was critical in the immunization programme.
“Communication with parents about childhood vaccinations is one way of addressing these issues, and increasing vaccination coverage”, said Dr Joseph Okeibunor, Social Scientist at the WHO Regional Office for Africa who spoke on behalf of Dr Richard Mihigo, the Programme Manager for Immunization and Vaccine Development at the WHO Regional Office for Africa.
Governments, International agencies and NGOs invest hugely in childhood immunization, however for effectiveness there is need to focus on the improved communication with parents and caregivers. Routine Immunization targets children under two years old and it’s up to the parents to take them for immunization. “Developing key actions or guidelines that enable parents, caregivers and communities to understand the meaning and relevance of vaccination to their health and the health of their family or community is critical”, Dr Okeibunor added.
Participants are drawn from EPI Expanded Programme on Immunization Managers, communications officers, activists, researchers and public health experts. The workshop is mainly based on the review of findings from systematic reviews complemented with evidence brought from daily experience by the experts convened.
The meeting is co-organised by the WHO Regional Office for Africa in collaboration with the Government of Norway.