7 July 2014

Tanzania: Kilimanjaro Catches Up With Immunisation Pace

Moshi — MANY lives have been lost and people disabled in Kilimanjaro and Tanzania as a whole because they were not immunised.

However, there is now light at the end of the tunnel as immunisation programme reaches out to many.

Kilimanjaro Region was lucky to play a host to Immunisation Week this year and that was graced by no other personality than The First Lady, Mama Salma Kikwete.

Kilimanjaro women and families in general are relieved at efforts seen lately carried out from different fronts, including those of The First Lady Mama Salma in making sure every child is immunised.

She was at Moshi towards the end of last month to officiate the immunisation week in which there was an introduction of Measles 2nd dose and HPV vaccine and the week went by the theme 'Immunisation is a Shared Responsibility.'

It is well known that women generally are the backbone of every community especially in the developing countries, but it happens that women are the worst affected by lack of immunisation, whether by services not being availed to them in some areas or by people ignoring tapping the opportunities.

It is against that background Mama Salma has decided to devote her precious time engaging in the initiative to save Tanzanians from this problem.

That was evidently seen on 27th April 2014 at Mandela Grounds in Moshi, when Tanzania joined other African countries to commemorate the African Immunisation Week and she spoke so patently.

Mama Salma who mingles with women, children and babies, narrates to them the benefits of the vaccines in saving lives of many children citing the significant drop in childhood morbidity and mortality due to vaccine preventable deaths over the years. She herself offers immunisation to some children as demonstration to what others should do.

She seems impressed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for launching the introduction of second dose of Measles vaccine and Rubella vaccines into the routine immunisation schedule, as well as the HPV vaccine for girls of 9 to 13 years through the demonstration project to be implemented in all districts in Kilimanjaro Region.

She calls onto community members to participate in the planned immunisation activities and to ensure their children are vaccinated, saying all members - mothers, fathers, siblings and caregivers should take children for vaccination. She says doing so will ensure health stakeholders reach every child in Tanzania.

She stresses on the need to sustain the current immunisation programme and intensify efforts in strengthening immunization services Ms Salome Mushi (58) is a resident of Uru Mawella Village in Moshi District who attended the immunisation ceremony at Mandela Grounds and said she was moved by the programme because one of her children got permanent disability because she was not immunised.

Ms Mushi says she knows several children in her village who are disabled while others lost their lives simply because they were unattended at and after birth. Some immunisations are issued at birth while others are served weeks or even months after birth. Why immunisation?

Because it can save a child's life. Because of advances in medical science, a child can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children, have been eliminated completely and others are close to extinction - primarily due to safe and effective vaccines.

One example of the great impact that vaccines can have is the elimination of polio in some countries. Polio was once the most-feared disease not only in developing countries, but even the developed ones like The US, causing death and paralysis across the country, but today, due to vaccination, there are few reports on polio deaths.

Vaccination is safe and effective as Mr John Massawe, a retired medical practitioner says is only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals. Vaccines may involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness or tenderness at the site of injection but that is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort and trauma of the diseases the vaccines prevent.

"Immunisation protects others you care about. We have seen resurgences of measles and whooping cough over the past few years. Unfortunately, some babies are too young to be vaccinated and some people may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia or other reasons.

"To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunised. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones," says Dr Massawe. He adds that immunisations can save family resources - time and money.

To show the importance of immunisation, a child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or child care facilities in the developed world. "Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care.

In contrast, getting vaccinated against these diseases is a good investment and usually covered by insurance," says the medic. Vaccines have reduced and in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago.

For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn has been dramatically decreased. "If we continue vaccinating now and the exercise ends completely, parents in future may be able to trust that some diseases will no longer be around to harm their children," he says.

The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Kebwe Stephen Kebwe, says there are remarkable achievements on immunisation coverage in the country and reductions in under-five child mortality and achievement of eradication or elimination targets realised for maternal and neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, measles and polio.

He says efforts have been made to raise awareness of the importance, need and the right of all persons to be protected through such immunisations. Dr Kebwe announced the three best performing regions as Kilimanjaro, Tanga and Dodoma. As for districts, the five best performing in the provision of immunisation services are Hai, Mufindi, Handeni, Kondoa and Misungwi.

All the regions and districts were awarded plaques and the five best performing districts were awarded 5m/- to support their proposals for strengthening provision of immunisation services in their districts. Kilimanjaro Regional Commissioner (RC), Mr Leonidas Gama thanks the government for hosting the launch of the African Vaccination Week and of the three vaccines within the Kilimanjaro community.

He says to be hosts contributes to awareness raising on the benefits of immunisation and also provides an opportunity for community participation in ensuring children are vaccinated and protected against life-threatening diseases.World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Tanzania, Dr Rufaro Chatora, congratulates the government of Tanzania for being among few countries in the African region to introduce five new vaccines over a short period of two years. He stresses on the need to sustainability. "Tanzania is a big country.

There still remain some children who are not vaccinated, posing the risk of disease outbreaks. We need to ensure all children are reached with immunisation services through the Reaching Every Child Approach. Our mission is to build on past achievements and use our knowledge and experience to save more lives," he says.

Dr Chatora calls for joint action among leaders, development partners and community members to ensure realisation of the child's fundamental right to be immunised and protected from debilitation and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. He assures Tanzania of a continued support from WHO towards implementation of immunisation services in the country.

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