Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The current lockdown has led to a decline in the number of parents taking their children for routine immunisation, the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation-UNEPI has revealed. According to UNEPI, although they often record low numbers of children during the routine immunisation, the situation has worsened because of COVID-19.
Every month, the Health Ministry provides 141,600 vaccines for the routine immunization exercise. However, less than 120,000 children often show up for immunization. According to the Health Ministry, one week into the lock down, less than 10,000 children have shown up.
Dr. Immaculate Amparie, the deputy manager UNEPI says the ministry of health has put in place conditions that will allow immunization to take place. “But the way Ugandan parents are, most are going to remain home because they don’t want to walk to health centers,” she said.
Uganda has 13 vaccines under its routine immunization schedule. Annually, the schedule targets over one million children. Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, says it is important for immunization activities to continue even with the current lockdown.
“All parents are encouraged to take their children to the nearest health facility for their vaccination. It’s important for routine immunization to take place to make sure children are healthy even in the midst of an outbreak,” Dr. Aceng said.
The Health Ministry has set up standard operating procedures to enable immunization exercises to go on as planned even during the lock down. Some of the measures include: only five mothers accessing services at any given time. Even this, the numbers at immunization centers are still slow. Stella Namugenyi, a nurse at Mulago National Referral Hospital, says that they have been seeing a handful of parents since last week.
“We are mostly receiving children of six months and below. The older ones are not coming. The situation has been like this since last month,” Namugenyi said. According to World Health Organisation, failure by governments to ensure children get immunized during the lock downs will affect the health of children.
The UN health agency, says if routine immunization doesn’t take place, outbreaks for diseases like measles might spring up which will add more stress onto already tired health systems.