I remember my first time hearing the term immunization, I was around ten years in class 6 for the Kenyans who did the 8-4-4 system, and I thought, my, what a big word. My science teacher began explaining immunization, and my brain cells were blown.
“The BCG vaccine is given at birth. It’s injected at the left forearm; look, that’s why there is a mark on your left forearm,” our science teacher illustrated when pointing to his scar. You could hear the sounds of astonishment from us, the pupils, when we realized we all had something in common. The beautiful sounds of amusements were cut short when that scheduling table was drawn. I struggled with cramming the table, and I still do, but looking back; such moments inspired me to become a pharmacist.
With my advanced knowledge and visible age, I understood the importance of immunization. This year’s theme for world immunization week is “THE BIG CATCH UP.” Honestly, the theme summarizes what immunization is about, catching up. However, what are we catching up to? Why is there so much attention when it comes to immunization and vaccination? The answer is simple: PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE.
There was a time when diseases such as measles, polio, and yellow fever caused health epidemics in the human population. From the black plaque to the most recent COVID-19, immunization has made great strides in preventing mortalities and morbidities.
Immunization coverage has improved, but more work is still needed not only for routine vaccinations but also vaccines that are emerging. For instance, the COVID-19 vaccine came when the virus had caused a global pandemic. Medics were broadly advocating for people to get vaccinated. However, some states needed help to achieve the 70% coverage target set out by WHO. Some of the reasons sighted were:
- Inadequate supplies of the vaccines
- Lack of political goodwill
- Resources limitation
- Pervasive vaccine hesitancy, especially in LMICs
The malaria vaccine is a revolutionary discovery, especially in Low-and-Middle Income Countries (LMICs) where the malaria disease burden is heavy. The youth have a central role in vaccination social advocacy, research, and engagement in the supply chain.
Diseases have raised havoc for decades, but with immunization, we now have a fighting chance to catch up. With vaccines, diseases that were once a death sentence are now no longer heard of.
This is why it is crucial for governments and all stakeholders in health to support immunization practices. Let’s ensure the vaccines reach the most remote areas through robust supply chain and logistics systems to protect the population. To give us a chance to catch up.
Article written by Dr. Njiru Cynthia Lisa, a driven and results oriented pharmacist passionate about health equity and the provision of quality and affordable healthcare services to all.