12 December 2012

Tanzania: New Vaccines Should Encourage Child Jabs

TANZANIANS in general and parents in particular have every reason to celebrate. In less than two weeks, the government has announced the arrival of two vaccines that are tailored to save the lives of children under five years of age.

The two vaccines are an anti-pneumonia one, known as pneumococcal and an anti-diarrhoea vaccine, which is known as Rotavirus in the parlance of the medical world. The latest vaccine arrivals tackle Hepatitis B and measles. A comprehensive nationwide vaccination campaign against childhood illnesses takes off next month.

The campaign has been affectionately christened, "Reaching Every Child Approach." Indeed, this is a wholehearted initiative towards saving children's lives. Pneumonia, diarrhoea, Hepatitis B and measles are notorious child killers in this country, apart from malaria which is rated as the most dangerous.

We must mention at the outset that statistics on childhood deaths are hard to come by in this country but the figure could be staggering. Each year, some 1.7 million children worldwide die from diseases that could have been prevented with vaccines, according to Unicef. Children who are immunized are protected from these dangerous diseases, which often lead to disability or death. In Tanzania, thousands of children die despite efforts to minimize the death toll among infants.

The disturbing fact is that their parents are ignorant about the benefit of immunization. We find it imperative to point out here that immunization is a right for every child. It is on record that some parents, especially in rural Tanzania, do not ensure that their children are immunized fully.

Partial immunization is wrong. In some countries, additional vaccine doses, called booster shots, are offered after the first year of life. These shots make the vaccine protection even more effective. Immunization protects children against some of the most dangerous diseases of childhood.

All children, including those who are disabled, need to be vaccinated. A child is immunized by vaccines, which are injected or given by mouth. The vaccines work by building up the child's defences against disease. Parents need to know that immunization only works if given before the disease strikes.

A child who is not immunized is likely to get measles, diarrhoea, pneumonia, Hepatitis B, whooping cough and other diseases that can kill. Let all and sundry heed to the call to send their children for immunization, please.

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