The Ministry of Health and Child Care in partnership with UNICEF has reached out to the apostolic sect as the Africa Vaccination Week gets underway.
During the on-going Africa Vaccination week, the Ministry of Health and Child Care engaged Johanne Masowe Echishanu shrine in Unit L, Seke Chitungwiza with the aim of vaccinating children under five.
Speaking to 263Chat at Johanne Masowe eChishanu shrine in Unit L Chitungwiza on Wednesday, Chitungwiza Hospital Sister in Charge, Sister Zhakata said over the years, apostolic sects have been a hard to reach area due to their religious beliefs.
“We have always had a problem with these apostolic churches because most of them do not respond to our calls for them to have their children vaccinated.
“So this year, we ran a campaign prior to this week’s vaccination week, and we mobilized them to have their children vaccinated and screened for acute malnutrition.
“The response we saw has been overwhelming which shows they heed our calls to vaccination,” said Sister Zhakata.
She added that, although the response was satisfactory for Chitungwiza, more of the same needs to be done at a national level so that all children undergo vaccination.
Zimbabwe’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (ZEPI) has integrated immunization with Vitamin A supplements, de-worming, active screening for acute malnutrition and growth monitoring.
Sister Zhakata said she was pleased with how the mothers responded to the vaccination.
Some of the women who spoke to 263Chat said they are aware of the dangers of not vaccinating their children while dismissing churches which prohibit access to health care deliveries to their members.
“We are fully aware of the effects associated with not vaccinating our children. We risk losing our children to some vaccine related deaths which are avoidable. It is important that every mother takes her child for vaccination and immunisation,” said Madzimai Petronella.
Another woman, Madzimai Chipo, called for the prosecution of church leaders who forbid access to health care for their members.
“Apostolic sects who forbid access to primary health care to their members must be prosecuted because it is a fundamental right for children to have access to all these health deliveries.
“We are taking the lead in vaccinating our children after we heed a call from the Chitungwiza Municipality and Chitungwiza Hospital. We want a better life for our kids and it begins with vaccination and immunisation,” she said.
Access to immunization has led to a dramatic decrease in deaths of children under five from vaccine-preventable diseases, and has brought the world closer to eradicating polio.
Between 2000 and 2015, under five deaths due to measles declined by 85 per cent and those due to neonatal tetanus by 83 per cent.
According to UNICEF, an estimated 19.4 million children around the world still miss out on full vaccinations every year. Around two thirds of all unvaccinated children live in conflict-affected countries.
Weak health systems, poverty and social inequities also mean that 1 in 5 children under five is still not reached with life-saving vaccines.
Globally, the poorest children are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five as the richest.
By 2030, an estimated 1 in 4 people will live in urban poor communities, mainly in Africa and Asia, meaning the focus and investment of immunization services must be tailored to the specific needs of these communities and children.
UNICEF procured 2.5 billion doses of vaccines to be administered on children in nearly 100 countries in 2016.
The figures, released during World Immunization Week, make UNICEF the largest buyer of vaccines for children in the world.