It wasn’t in the news much, but Myanmar ran a nationwide measles vaccination campaign during the last ten days of March. The objective? To reach 6.4 million kids aged 9 months to 5 years with measles vaccine.
I spent last week in Myanmar monitoring the campaign which was supported by the Measles Initiative. This was a strong campaign where health workers had clear plans everyday about how many children to reach, how to bring them to the post, and immunize them as safely and efficiently as possible. There were many highlights from this campaign, and here are just five that really stood out:
1. Inviting the people:
You may be formally invited to a party, to the theatre, to an event – but have you been invited to be immunized? In Myanmar health workers and village leaders went house-to-house and personally invited every family to the immunization post, marked with the date and time of the post along with information about measles. We talked to 100 households and found these invitations were the number one reason they knew about the campaign.
2. Smooth flow at the post
Health posts are meant to flow smoothly from screening and registration of names, to injection, to rest for thirty minutes. The posts I saw in Myanmar, even the smallest ones in rural areas, practiced this perfectly.
After injection, children rest for thirty minutes so they can be observed for any reactions. It’s the recommended practice worldwide but it’s rare to see this implemented so well.
3. Motivated health workers and volunteers
Midwives are responsible for immunization in Myanmar, and they’re backed by supervisors, cold chain managers, community leaders and volunteers. These women went to pick up vaccines at 6 a.m. at the cold store every morning so they could open their post by 7 a.m.
These young nursing students below spent a lot of time learning at the posts, and helped to keep the flow moving smoothly.
In a vaccination campaign every child counts as does every dose of vaccine. Health workers here were meticulous about ensuring every vaccine dose was perfectly drawn and every child immunized was recorded. If kids missed the post, volunteers and community leaders would go to the parents’ house to remind them to bring in their children.
5. Results for Families and Communities
When we talked to households we found almost every single child had been immunized. Parents knew about the campaign from many sources including directly from health workers and village leaders who personally delivered the invitation cards, town announcements and television. This demonstrated the power of community mobilization.
We asked kids to show us where they had been vaccinated. Most remembered very well.
About the author:
Christine McNab is a consultant working with the Measles Initiative