IMPROVING IMMUNIZATION COVERAGE

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According to the national policy and guidelines on immunization, Kenya intends to attain 90% and 80% fully immunized child coverage nationally and in every county to ensure that children do not die due to diseases that can be prevented through immunization. A child is considered fully vaccinated when they have completed the immunization schedule and received the 2nd measles vaccine.

While the Government of Kenya provides routine and emergency vaccines free of charge in all public health facilities through the Unit of Vaccines and Immunization Services (UVIS), these services are not being fully utilized by caregivers. PS Kenya, through funding from USAID, is charged with the responsibility of creating awareness on the importance of immunization and therefore increase awareness of the vaccines offered to the target audience.

The Immunization Communication Objectives

 

The objectives of the immunization SBCC campaign is therefore to increase the number of caregivers who:

  1. Know the recommended number of vaccines for children under the age of 2 years.
  2. Know when to go to Health Facilities to complete the immunization schedule.
  3. Can recall at least 4 immunizations and the diseases they prevent.

This immunization social behaviour change communication campaign is therefore focused on one of the Counties with the lowest coverage in Kenya – Homabay County.

Understanding the Problem

In 2017, we carried out a household survey in Homabay County to ascertain the knowledge, attitude and practices that affect uptake of immunization. The baseline survey revealed that awareness of vaccines in general was highest at birth, similar to national trends observed in the 2014 KDHS. More than half of the respondents were aware of the immunization administered at 6 weeks after birth. Rural respondents recorded higher awareness numbers at 62% compared to the peri-urban respondents at 58%. The immunization awareness numbers were lowest in the subsequent months of 2 and a half to 3 and a half months for Pentavalent, Polio, Rotavirus and Pneumonia vaccines then a slight increase was observed for measles at 9 months. The baseline survey also indicated higher knowledge levels among rural based caregivers than among urban caregivers across various vaccines,

Radio was the primary source of information among caregivers (31%) and Community Healthy Volunteers was the second most important source of information (26%). Lack of knowledge was cited as a key barrier followed by caregiver attitudes and beliefs.

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Our Response

Based on the responses we got from the survey above, the immunization SBCC campaign was then implemented in Suba and Kabondo Sub Counties through:

  1. Trained Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) going door to door in mapped households to carry out interpersonal communication with caregivers of children under two years.
  2. Radio through the immunization campaign whose tagline is “Kutomaliza Chanjo ni kukatiza ndoto” based on the premise that immunization is the best option to safeguard the health and therefore dreams of one’s children.
  3. Targeted SMS was also used to speak to caregivers of children under 2 and expectant mothers.

Collaboration in the Immunization Project

The immunization project relies heavily on close collaboration of Homabay County Health Management Team (CHMT) led by the County Director for Health, Dr. Gordon Okomo and the County Extended Program on Immunization (EPI) Coordinator, Mrs. Christine Ong’ete, PS Kenya and partners supporting other aspects of the immunization project in the County. USAID supported quarterly consultative forums through which project progress was deliberated upon and further collaboration birthed.

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