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Cameroon Below Recommended WHO Standards In Children Vaccination – Prof Robinson Enow Mbu 

Interviewed by George Arrey Agbor

Cameroon has been classified below the recommended World Health Organisation, WHO, standards as far as maternal and infant vaccinations are concerned. Talking to The Post on the evaluation of the Maternal, Child and Nutrition Action Week organised by the Ministry of Public Health as part of the African Vaccination Week, Prof. Robinson Enow Mbu, Director of Family Health in that Ministry disclosed that Cameroon has vaccination coverage of 84 percent, six percent short of the WHO recommended standards which stands at 90 percent. This evaluation comes a few weeks after WHO officials in Yaounde launched the African Vaccination Week in a solemn ceremony. Excerpts:

What is Maternal, Child and Nutrition Action Week all about?

Maternal, Child and Nutrition Action Week, known in French acronym as SASNIM is called an action week because it covers four days. Within these four days, children who were not able to be vaccinated during the routine vaccinations are given the opportunity to be vaccinated.

What other activities are carried out during this period? 

During this period, we cover nine routine vaccinations, we also give malaria treatment to pregnant women and Vitamin A supplements to children. All this things are given routinely in the routine vaccinations centres. But for one reason or the other, a child may not have been be opportune to get vaccinated during the routine vaccinations because of ill health or distance, therefore, this week is meant to catch up with the gaps of the number of children who were not vaccinated during the routine vaccination coverage.

When was the last vaccination week held? And when will the next one come up?

It is usually in the month of April and the second one will come in the month of November. It is synchronised; it goes round. The same activity is carried out in all the 10 regions of the country simultaneously.

What is the technique used in carrying out this activity?

We use so many techniques. There is the fixed technique where the health workers stays in one spot and women and children come there for their vaccinations .There is an advanced technique where health workers move into homes; the team is mobile. Another team will move into the homes to find out the children that have not been vaccinated during routine vaccinations.

This special vaccination must be very demanding. What is your evaluation of the past vaccination week?

It entails a lot of mobilisation of personnel, material and means of transportation. It is a very good idea because during this week, we have been able to increase our vaccination coverage in the country for up to 84 percent. But there are some regions where the vaccination coverage is better, for example, the Far North where we have a vaccination coverage of more  than 95 percent .

What are the recommended WHO standards as far as good vaccination coverage is concerned?

WHO recommends that good vaccination coverage should cover at least 90 percent of children. Cameroon is at 84 percent, which means that we still have a gap of up to 6 percent to cover to come to the recommended WHO value.

What is the situation in most of our regions?

Most of our regions are doing well. We know the problems of Akwaya, first of all, the number of health personnel is very small and Akwaya is very vast and there is no direct access road to most of the villages. So, it is a very big problem for us to give adequate coverage.

When you come to Bakassi, it is the same story. You know, we have lots of rivers, lakes and these vaccinations may happen when it has rained and there are floods. The health personnel may find it difficult to have access to some of these villages.

What about the Northwest Region?

The same thing holds for areas such as Benakuma in the Northwest Region. There are even some areas in Ako district where you may probably have to pass through Nigeria to get access. These are the principal areas where we have some difficulties.

What is the government doing to bridge this gap?

The government is putting a lot of efforts, both material and financial, combined with assistance from some of our collaborators. We have been able to give some good vaccination coverage throughout the country during this period.

What are the possible public health related diseases if a child or a pregnant woman fails to take these vaccines?

The most dangerous of the diseases is polio. When a child contracts polio, the child is paralysed, the child has what we call flaccid paralysis. The muscles are wasted and the child cannot move, this is the most dangerous of them. We also have what we call child hood disease; something like pedisis, which is a type of cough that you can cough without stopping. These are diseases that kill. So, the vaccination programme covers these potentially dangerous diseases.

Now that the next vaccination campaign is coming up in November, what message do you have for the public?

First of all, I will tell the public that they should respect their routine vaccination programmes; parents should follow these programmes scrupulously. Secondly, parents should come out en masse and bring out their children who were not able to be vaccinated during the routine vaccinations for them to be vaccinated in November.

How much do parents have to pay to get their children vaccinated during these periods?

Thank you very much for this question. The population should know that these vaccinations are free of charge. Nobody pays even a dime. The Government takes care of mobilising the personnel from wherever they are to wherever they are going to work.

The Government also takes care of paying their perdiem and out of station allowances, wherever they are working. So, there is no financial commitment from parents. All what parents need to do is to bring out their children for vaccinations and help the Government to meet up with the recommended WHO standards of 90 percent, since, at 84 percent; we are still short of six percent.

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