Saving Lives through Vaccination
The easiest way to prevent sickness and enjoy full health is by remaining proactive through getting vaccination. Vaccination as a medical process, is a direction of antigenic material to stimulate an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), estimations shows that vaccination prevents 2-3 million deaths per year (in all age groups), and up to 1.5 million children die each year due to diseases which could have been prevented by vaccination. WHO estimates that 29% of deaths of children under five years old in 2013 could have been prevented by vaccines.
In Eritrea vaccination is given to the “core section of the society”, children and women. In order to undertake vaccination, certain things need to be considered. First, since the medicine which is meant for vaccination is highly sensitive, the concerned division in the Ministry of Health (MoH) provides in protection administer. In addition to this, nurses who administer vaccinations update themselves with new technology and the required knowledge medicine. The MoH always gives these nurses new courses and conducts the needed supervision.
All health centers are obliged to provide vaccination services seven days a week. Further, out of the 347 health centers in Eritrea, 295 are also obliged to give the routine vaccination. In addition, the Ministry of Health provides vaccination to people who are unable to reach the health centers by themselves. For communities who live in remote areas of the country the ministry arranges vaccination programs once or twice a month via outrange service. To carry out the overall vaccination programs 450 health centers are built across the country.
Mr. Tedros Yhdego Head of The Vaccination Unit at the Ministry of Health siad, these 450 health centers are located in western and eastern lowlands as well as in Zoba Anseba since, many people in this area lead nomadic life style. At a national level vaccination is given four times a year, which is known as a sustainable outreach service. This is aimed at giving a routine vaccination to every core sections of the society.
Likewise, every two or three years there is a national vaccination program, especially targeting polio and measles. The aim of the national vaccination program is to control polio and measles virus and to increase and harden the immunity system of children from five to fifteen years of age.
Until now the MoH has introduced eleven types of vaccines, these vaccines however have the potential to control more than eleven diseases.
Though challenging, vaccination services are given all over Eritrea. This accomplishment became possible because of the awareness of the society. There were of course some challenges such as, shortage of transportation and the lifestyles of the nomadic people to smoothly conduct the vaccination programs.
According to Mr. Tedros, until 2002, only six types of vaccination were introduced which are known as traditional vaccines. But, from 2002 onwards new vaccines started to be introduced. The Ministry of Health introduced new vaccines against other uncertain disease. Not only this, MoH also decided to import new medicines of measles to control the measles infection and increase the immunity.
As a result, measles vaccine is giving encouraging outcome. However, rubella, a disease that especially attacks pregnant women and their infants, is replacing measles as a major challenge. The Ministry of Health is actively working in vaccinating babies of nine months and eighteen months. Soon general National MR (measles, rubella) vaccination programs will be conducted, after this all new born babies will get MR vaccination. This is one of the main programs the Ministry of Health planning to undertake in 2017.
The next program is concerning the human papilovia, a virus that causes cervical cancer and womb bleeding to teenage girls who start to give birth. Since 80% of this diseases is caused by the virus, the Ministry is planning to give human papilovia vaccine to girls from nine to fourteen years old.
Meningitis is another concern of the ministry. This kind of disease is prevalent in the countries stretched between far West and far East region, which is called the Meningitis Space. It consists of 26 states, Eritrea being one. Over 23 states take it as a serious disease and give vaccinations.
In Eritrea this kind of diseases is not new and the places it affects and the time it appears is also known. The Ministry of Health is planning to give national level vaccination regarding Meningitis in 2018.
People need to know that once vaccines are provided the body is obliged to keep getting it. Vaccination is a biological product. It is not like medicine which is given to a patient whenever they are sick. Unlike this, vaccination is given to people in order to increase their immunity system and to help them have a healthy life. Any kind of vaccine or medicine is taken under a high care nationally or globally.
The globally responsible organization is the WHO and the scientist advisory group. When the WHO prepares one vaccine, it comes with a document consisting of the policies, the ways the vaccine is used and the percentage of disease in which it is believed to be controlled by the given vaccine and distributes it to all the world states. This does not mean that all states in the world accept it simply. In order to accept it a new vaccine individual states must first conduct research regarding the vaccine in relation to their country’s diseases and introduce it if it is found necessary.
According to Mr. Tedros, vaccination programs are going well. In the past measles cases were vast, as in 1991. However, with the great efforts made by the ministry the cases were dropped down into almost zero in 2015. Mr. Tedros Yhdego suggested that since new born babies are the future of the state, pregnant women need to give birth in hospitals or nearby health care centers, so that newborn babies could get the vaccines in their sixth, twelfth and, finally, fourteenth week. After this, they also need to take their first vaccination in their nine month and their second vaccination within eighteen month for measles.
As a concluding part, Mr. Tedros said, parents need to take the vaccination programs consciously and seriously and take care of their children health card as it consists of the data of their children’s health. After all, the handling of the vaccines from the beginning until they reach to the patient is under an intensive care so people need to be assured by this.
As health continues to be one of the top priorities of Eritrea’s path towards sustainable development, vaccination programs and raising awareness of the general public about its vital role will continue to work in progress for years to come. Generally, Eritrea, as a newly independent state, the Government and the people were and still are working to safeguard a viable life. Investing on health to take care of the human life is fundamental for the national development.