Embracing vaccination as way of life
In the village of Mesrake not far from the City of Debre Tsege, overshadowed by the monasteries of Debre Libanos not far away and a full-fledged hospital in the City of Fiche, the city’s lone public clinic has been busy with a growing interest from parents to vaccinate their young children.
A new phenomenon of sorts!
With a growing wisdom in the need to vaccinate children in Ethiopia and in most of the developing world, everyday parents from far and near are bringing their children to a town known for its sprawling farms, embracing vaccines to reduce a once high childhood morbidity rates.
Konjit Tadesse, 37, a mother of three, is a classic mother from the area. She grew up with little means, her parents lacked basic education and they used old wisdom of herbal tea to see if there children got cured when they fell ill.
Konjit’s father never saw any potential in a “foreign vaccine” to help cure a preventable sickness. However, that came at a hefty price as three of their seven children died prematurely from polio. They assumed they simply died because “it was their time”.
Konjit thinks otherwise.
Those were the old days; she told The Reporter.
Now equipped with wisdom, experience and rights gained unlike the times she grew up in, along with her husband, she is making decisions based on proven science, now endorsed by the Government of Ethiopia.
For her, it is important to see all her children grow up, and not lose them at a young age.
“I take my children for a regular checkup at the government run clinic. I do not pay for such services, except for actual medication. Unlike my parent’s generation, I want to be able to see my children live a healthy life with no misfortune associated to something that can be prevented. Something like a simple diarrhea should not be a death sentence to them and regular vaccination has given me hope that they will not die for something that can be prevented,” she told The Reporter.
There are more than 1.5 million additional deaths believed to be linked to lack of immunization. It might be why Ethiopia continues to invest much needed scarce resources, created a national vaccination program in 2013 and took the plan to most of the rural parts of the country where such deaths were in high numbers.
Even Ethiopia’s noted Health Minister and now head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom (PhD) reflected on losing a brother to a likely measles that could have been prevented with a vaccination and that he has since become an advocate for vaccination on the world stage.
A study conducted by Koku Sisay Tamirat and Malede Mequanent Sisay of BMC Public Heath, an open access, peer-reviewed journal on epidemiology of disease, found the lack of adequate health care often associated with lack of knowledge and education played a part in lack of prevention of common diseases and also focused on the 67 deaths per 1,000 children that is the norm across the nation.
“Evidence suggested that most of under-five deaths in low and middle-income countries are caused by easily treatable and preventable diseases such as; diarrhea, fever, cough, pneumonia, and malaria, despite the existing interventions. The health care utilization for fever was lower for separated parents, husbands without formal education, giving birth at home and from the poorest family. Programs to improve the educational status of a household are essential for better care utilization and children development,” the study concluded.
ONE – co-founded by the Irish celebrity Bono and noted for putting pressure on donors to help follow on promises pledged on humanitarian initiatives such as immunization this month calling on wealthy nations to help fund the GAVI Alliance replenishment round for 2016 – 2020 – has a goal to raise additional resources, including USD 7. 5 billion to immunize 300 million children and save 6 million lives starting with a targeted campaign linked to the World Cup, which according to the ONE campaign is, “to pay attention not only to the shots and saves on the playing fields of Brazil, but in health clinics around the world.”
Ethiopia is now trying to emulate its success of protecting the health of children across the nation, backed by donors and supporters eager to see it change the narrative of the past.
“Ethiopia is the second-most populous country in Africa. The discovery of vaccines is among the 20th century’s most successful and cost-effective public health tools to prevent disease, disability and death,” Birhanu Hurisa, a biotechnologist, specialized in vaccine development told The Reporter. “Without vaccination, many of the health, economic and social gains of the past 200 years would simply not have been possible.
He also highlighted the rising costs of vaccinations.
“Vaccine development today faces a number of significant challenges. The need for additional types of vaccines and increased immunization coverage is expected to rise with the rapid population growth, national economic growth, epidemic outbreaks, emerging and re-emerging diseases.”
According to Birhanu, Ethiopia’s Health Ministry, noted for providing vaccinations for such diseases as measles, pertussis, diphtheria, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis with the financial and technical support of the World Health Organization (WHO), is now planning to achieve an average of 80 – 90 percent immunization coverage across the nation.
It is also to introduce a long term plan to reduce vaccine preventable diseases with locally manufactured vaccines where currently a fraction the vaccines required in Africa is locally made.