Addressing Baringo County low immunization coverage
Baringo County immunization coverage has over the years remained below the national vaccination targets. In 2019 only 72% of infants in the County received all their vaccination doses by their first birthday.
The current low vaccination coverage in the largely rural Baringo County is worrying as many children remain partially or completely unvaccinated. The Ministry of Health (MOH) reported in the last quarter of 2019 that more than 5,500 children in Baringo missed their immunization, exposing them to deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.
Residents of Baringo have lost their loved ones every year due to recurrent malaria outbreaks. The County is prone to seasonal transmissions of malaria mostly during the rainy season.
Low immunization coverage in the area has partly contributed to the upsurge and severity of malaria. Many unvaccinated children and expectant mothers have succumbed to the disease, devastating families and the community.
Although the Baringo County government in collaboration with the national government’s MOH have spearheaded an immunization campaign in Baringo and neighbouring counties to protect the residents from preventable diseases such as malaria, many children, adolescents and adults are yet to be vaccinated.
Immunization rate in Baringo County dropped to 50% in 2021, a critical situation that alarmed MOH and the County government over possible outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Baringo is one of the counties marked as high-risk zones for Measles and Rubella diseases. Reported incidences of the infectious diseases last year necessitated MOH with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to launch a drive to mobilize resources, health workers and volunteers to start administering Measles and Rubella vaccines to over 86,000 children across the County.
The low Baringo County vaccination coverage is attributable to poor road network, long distances to health clinics and immunization centres, lack of awareness on the need for immunization among the residents, unavailability of vaccines and lack of proper vaccine storage and distribution facilities.
Community health workers and volunteers working in Baringo County have profusely raised alarm that a significant proportion of expectant and nursing mothers do not visit health clinics for prenatal and postnatal services and immunization, leaving them and their children vulnerable to preventable diseases.
As a response to the low visits to health clinics by women and girls in the reproductive age bracket in Baringo, MAMA trains community health volunteers (CHVs) and Community health Workers (CHWs) to educate and facilitate expectant and nursing mothers to visit healthcare centres regularly. MAMA is also seeking partners to offer training to more CHVs and CHWs to reach more residents and ensure more women deliver their babies in health clinics and access immunization.
MAMA is also set to launch a Wellness and Resource Centre with a well-equipped maternity wing that will offer quality maternal and child care services, including essential immunization, to the Orus community in Tiaty East, Baringo County.
Addressing the low vaccination coverage in the County requires well-developed collective interventions to protect lives and reduce maternal and child mortalities.
Article by David Njiru, a strategic communications specialist and a Communications Officer at MAMA