While immunization against ‘the killer diseases’ has become a norm and socially accepted ‘ritual’ among various community settings in Uganda, it is still faced with a lot of myths and misconceptions especially in the rural communities.
For this reason, some individuals have shunned the practice entirely while others do not complete the dosages recommended for their little ones.
This is the case with Sumaya Kantono, a resident of Kederuna sub-county in Budaka sub region (Eastern Uganda).
Although she had ever taken her 9 months old son for immunisation, she noted that she did so because she had just been informed about an immunization session at a nearby health centre, but she doesn’t comprehend why she has to do it continually.
“I can’t tell exactly why I was told to take my son for immunisation. I just remember they immunised him against Polio and something else,” Sumaya said.
She argued that her son has never had any kind of serious illness; because “I keep him clean and breastfeed him.”
The Ministry of Health has over the years sensitized and encouraged parents to take their children for immunisation. It should be noted that all vaccines provided by the ministry are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Sharon Alunghati, a health care worker at Bukedi Health Centre IV revealed that immunisation helps to prevent the killer diseases.
These include; Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Whooping cough, Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza, Pneumonia, Measles and Rotavirus.
“If you don’t immunise the children, there is a high possibility that they will get these diseases, which are fatal,” she added.
She explained that immunisation is first conducted at 0 years; with the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) for Tuberculosis, Polio Zero against Polio before the mother and child are discharged from the health facility.
“At one and a half months, they immunise Polio one, Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) one, DPT one for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus; and Roter Virus. Even when a child is fed well, it is important to take them for early immunisation,” Alunghati said.
She emphasized that although some vaccines are administered at a later stage, early immunisation is crucial.
“There are some vaccines that expire; like Polio vaccine which you can’t administer when it is past the time. Then there are those like the TB Vaccine (BCG) that you can still give to someone, but again they are not administered when the person is already having Tuberculosis. You first treat the disease,” she explained.
“When you administer a vaccine to patients when they are sick, they won’t get cured. They could also develop fatal complications since vaccines are meant to trigger immunity against the disease but not cure one,” she added.
Alunghati attributed the reluctance of parents to take their children for immunization to ignorance about the benefits of the practice.
“There is still a lot of ignorance. People are still not yet aware of the importance of immunisation. At one time we were immunising against Polio at 5 years and the people were like: you are immunising a virus into our kids. So because they lack the sensitisation and have those myths in them, they were not willing to bring their children,” she said.
She, therefore, said that people ought to be educated about the dangers of not immunising children, as prevention is better than cure.