Gavi Rebuilds Immunization Services in Ebola Regions

The first stage is underway in Gavi’s plans to rebuild immunization services wrecked by the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These revived programs will ensure that hundreds of thousands of children who missed out, or are at risk of missing out, will now receive their vaccinations.

Because the Ebola outbreak destroyed the immunization services, Gavi will have a coordinated approach to ensure that these countries are stronger and more resilient to infectious diseases. Gavi is doubling their long-term support for their health systems until 2020.

Rumors in African countries have negatively impacted immunization services. These rumors have falsely claimed that childhood vaccines, such as those protecting against measles and pneumonia, are linked to Ebola. This has caused parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated. These rumors have caused a major setback for immunization services, leaving hundreds of thousands of children at risk.

Ebola has taken the lives of many healthcare workers in these three countries, and even forced some workers to abandon their posts as the crisis took hold. As the countries try to return to normal life, there is a lack of healthcare workers to provide vaccinations.

With this plan in place, Gavi will provide funds for civil society organizations to work with communities to hold meetings and brief village chiefs and religious leaders about the importance of immunizing children. Gavi is also focused on ensuring that there are enough trained healthcare providers to administer the vaccines to the children.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, states, “As the initial Ebola epidemic recedes, we now face a race against time to prevent outbreaks of other dangerous diseases, by ensuring that children receive the vaccines the need to protect them. Rebuilding trust amongst parents and carers is critical, as is ensuring that they are provided with the services they need to protect their children.”

The package from Gavi will total $12.5 million and work to trace children who missed out on immunization and ensure they are enrolled in catch-up programs. There will be a nationwide drive to recruit new vaccinators and provide them with training.

A measles immunization campaign will also be held. It is estimated that because of the Ebola outbreak, as many as one million children were not vaccinated against measles.

But Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is not alone in rebuilding immunization programs. Since the beginning of 2015, UNICEF and WHO has supported the countries to undertake immunization campaigns to tackle outbreaks of childhood diseases, such as measles and meningitis.

With the support from Gavi, the training of healthcare workers will ensure that childhood immunization will continue after the Ebola crisis. By reestablishing trust in the parents, children will once again be protected against preventable diseases.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: Gavi Alliance 1, Gavi Alliance 2
Photo: Gavi Alliance