The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH&SW) has disclosed that though free routine immunization services are available throughout the country, but it is not being utilized by mothers and caregivers.
The Deputy Director of NHPD, Richard Tarr, said that this situation is leaving several children unprotected thereby making them vulnerable to preventable sicknesses. “Most women are not taking their babies for vaccination though the government is making frantic efforts and this is not good for the children,” Tarr said.
Mr. Tarr made specific references to three of the 15 counties where they are high number of children that are not immunized. He named Margibi, Montserrado and Grand Gedeh Counties as counties that posed more challenges.
The Health Ministry official spoke at a media interactive forum at the offices of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday, May 1, in Monrovia. He said more than 24 percent of children fewer than five years died in Liberia from sicknesses that could be prevented by vaccines.
The media-health stakeholder interactive meeting was intended to brainstorm on a more effective ways in which awareness messages could be created for caregivers to take advantage of the routine vaccines.
There are five different vaccines that a newborn should take before reaching their first birthday. These different vaccines are BCV vaccine which protect children from bad cough, polio vaccine, pentavalent vaccine, PCV or Pneumonia and measles vaccines. Four of these vaccines are provided routinely across the country. These are known as Routine Immunization (RI).
However an estimated 1.5 million children died each year-one every 20 seconds from sicknesses that can be prevent by these vaccines. Vaccines protect people from catching sicknesses that cause death and disabilities. Vaccines giving during childhood prevent 2.5 million annually around the world.
Mr. Tarr said Montserrado County has more unvaccinated children than all other counties combined. He indicated that 5,971 children in Montserrado are missing Penta 3 vaccine while an additional 12,938 miss measles vaccine.
Providing some statistics, which he termed as challenges that they are faced with, he said 33 percent, which are about 49,628, of under-one population live in Montserrado. Nine out of ten of these children live in densely populated Monrovia districts. He said only 98 of the 241 facilities in the country provide routine immunization.
He noted that Polio campaign has overshadowed routine immunization. Free RI services are available every day, but are not being utilized. There is need to increase demand and improve service delivery.
He said that there are three interventions to keep children healthy and strong. They are, vaccines, nutrition and hand washing.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and some of its partners, notably United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF) will on May 6, 2014 began observance of this year African Vaccination Week (AVW), which seeks to create more awareness about the importance of immunizing children.
The AVW is to also strengthen RI services by increasing awareness of the importance, the need, and the right of all persons to be protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.
AVW is also intended to sustain advocacy, expand community participation and improve immunization service delivery