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Tackling Vaccination Refusal in Urban Slum, Pakistan

posted Apr 27, 2018, 4:00 AM by GAVI CSO   [ updated Apr 27, 2018, 4:01 AM ]
By Nabila Qadir, Friends Foundation  

Majeed Khan and Farzana Khan are a young couple living in Siham Gaon, an urban slum, in Cant Rawalpindi of Punjab province, Pakistan. They have five children – four daughters and one son. Below Farzana, describes why only one of her children is partially immunized: 

“My first daughter was suffering from high grade fever after the vaccination, that time my husband decided to stop her vaccination. And he believes that natural immunity is better for children than immunity acquired through vaccinations.” 

There is no hospital for vaccination and nearest medical facility is about 3 hours walk from my house. During my first visit to vaccinate my first daughter, the hospital faculty never told me anything about the side effects and the reason why vaccination is important for children, they just told me about the next visit date.

At the very beginning, I used to spend my free time in making handy craft, but now I don’t have much time for such activities I am always busy with household responsibilities, in our area most of the work burden is on mothers and most of the time my husband is out of home”. 

Farzana’s experience is not unusual. In many urban slum areas, often the poorest communities, many of the same problems exist; a lack of accessible health care facilities, high costs to travel to health centers outside the local area, and lack of awareness of immunisation services and benefits of getting vaccinated - often due to a lack of an education system, Even though vaccination has been proved to prevent childhood diseases and save millions of lives every year, there are common misconceptions about the side effects of immunisation and about the protection vaccines can provide against disease. 

Friends Foundation is a member of Pakistan CSOs Coalition for Health & Immunisation (PCCHI). The Friends Foundation team visited Farzana in her house, as part of their awareness raising campaign targeting mothers on the importance of immunizing children.  

“This session made me realize the importance of vaccination for children to protect them from different diseases by timely vaccination” said Farzana. 

After the session Farzana felt empowered to contact the Friends Foundation team and ask many questions about vaccination. From this conversation, Farzana understood more clearly the value of vaccination and took two of her children to the Friends Foundation vaccination camp to be immunised. 

The Friends Foundation is just one example of the critical role CSO’s play in the local community to ensure children get the vaccines they need. The Friends Foundation regularly runs awareness sessions for the purpose of strengthening community members knowledge on the immunisation schedule and vaccines which should be available to all children. They work to mobilise community leaders about the value of immunizing children and ask them to share this information with their communities. Social mobilizers in the local community use megaphone’s to announce when vaccination camps will run and build on their relationships with local religious leaders to share the news through their networks too. 

There are a number of other community initiatives that have been critical to reaching unimmunized children in Farzana’s local community. Social mobilisers also go door to door to visit households to understand why parents are not getting their children immunized – they record the findings and track whether children are being immunized at the next immunisation camp. They also use print media to highlight immunisation activities in the local community. Such initiatives reemphasizes the importance of social mobilization and one-to-one communication with parents to ensure the uptake of vaccination. The CSOs have proved to be instrumental in bringing the change in focused communities due to its deep roots and presence in the communities.