10 November 2012

Rwanda: Men Urged to Play Role in Child Immunisation

Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo
Mothers sit with their malnourished and dehydrated children in a ward at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu.

As the world celebrates World Immunisation Day today, men have been urged not to abandon the duty of immunising children to mothers.

The head of Vaccine Preventable Diseases in the Ministry of Health, Maurice Gatera says most men assume that this role is only for the women and so they never take up the initiative to ensure that their children are immunised.

"The biggest challenge has been lack of men's involvement. However, local leaders too should take up the initiative and hold awareness campaigns to encourage parents on the role of immunisation. Immunisation should be part of our culture and no parent has an excuse for not immunising their children since it's free," he said.

At 90 percent immunisation coverage, according to the 2010 Demographic Health Survey, the doctor noted that Rwanda is performing remarkably well.

At least 97 per cent of children under the age of one receive polio vaccination and Rwanda hasn't had polio cases in a longtime. The last polio cases in Rwanda were witnessed back in 1993 and no new cases have been registered since.

According to a World Bank report published in 2012, the immunisation against measles for children ages 12-23 months in Rwanda was last reported at 82 percent in 2010.

Rwanda was also one of the first developing countries to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia in 2009, according to UNICEF.

Children in Rwanda have been receiving vaccination since 2008 with over eleven diseases being vaccinated against, according to Gatera.

Before 2002, the country had been using traditional drugs, including BCG, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles and whooping cough vaccines.

In 2002, there was vaccination for hepatitis b and influenza. And in 2009, Rwanda got the Pneumococcal vaccine for pneumonia. The country now has included two more vaccines; Rotavirus and HPV to prevent against Diarrhoea and Cervical cancer diseases.

Gatera also said that a new vaccine against rubella disease will be introduced in the country next year as it's becoming a common disease among children. Rubella, commonly known as German measles, is a disease caused by the rubella virus.

A malaria vaccine is also on trial in both Kenya, Tanzania and the government, according to Gatera, is considering introducing it in Rwanda once it's declared effective.

Gatera said that the government is committed to fighting against all preventable diseases by ensuring timely immunisation.

The Government spends US$2m on vaccines every year as part of its commitment to fight preventable diseases.

Some of the other vaccines like the rotavirus are given by donors such as Gavi Alliance.

Clementine Ingabire, a mother of two says she is very grateful for the free vaccinations.

"None of my children has ever suffered from an immunisable disease since I take them for vaccination early enough. At first, I didn't really know why I should take them for vaccination until a community health worker came to my home and explained to me that the vaccines prevent them from killer diseases," she told The New Times.

Ingabire commended the role of Community Health Workers for sensitising Rwandans about immunisation which she believes, has contributed to her children's good health.

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