There isn’t a place in the world yet to be touched by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the global health community works together to find a vaccine, we’re reminded of just how integral routine immunisations are to transforming the health of people and communities everywhere.
Right now, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is calling on world leaders and donors to help it continue its lifesaving work protecting communities from deadly diseases, like measles and polio, and fight the spread of COVID-19. When a vaccine for COVID-19 is made available, Gavi will play a central role in ensuring those who need it have access.
An urgent response against COVID-19 is needed. Now, more than ever, Gavi must be equipped to double down on its work to strengthen the health of the world’s most vulnerable communities and help build a safer world for everyone.
Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, communities everywhere must continue to maintain routine vaccination when possible. Gavi works with vaccinators around the world who are dedicated to protecting children with life-saving vaccines. We’ve pulled together a collection of stories about some of these local heroes.
Madeleine, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
It’s crucial to keep vaccines cool, which is especially difficult during frequent power cuts. With the help of solar fridges, nurses like Madeleine can carry vaccines to where they’re most needed.
Sister Sofia, Ethiopia
In rural areas like Afar, a herding community in Ethiopia, very few children have traditionally received vaccines against measles. Sister Sofia finds families who are often on the move and convinces them to immunise their children.
Carolyn, a widowed mother of seven from Grand Bassa County in rural Liberia, is the longest serving female vaccinator in Liberia. In her 33 years on the job, she has contributed to the survival of approximately 100,000 children within the Bushrod community outside the capital Monrovia.
Agnes and Gabriel, Nigeria
Lack of transportation can sometimes mean hard-to-reach communities don’t get the vaccines they need. That’s why health workers Agnes and Gabriel in Ondo State in Nigeria travel by motorcycle to help make sure that children in remote areas can access vaccines and stay healthy.
Oumi Thioune, Rural Senegal
Oumi Thioune, a head teacher from Méckhé in rural Senegal, recognises that health education is a crucial part of her job. She organises immunisation sessions in her school, and recently spread the word about her country’s vaccination pilot project for HPV — a virus linked to cervical cancer.
“Every Senegalese woman knows how serious cervical cancer is. Everyone has heard about it … I was very proud they chose my school in raising awareness about the HPV vaccine — it’s so important for everyone’s health.”
Dakar’s North District team, Urban Senegal
The fast-changing population in Dakar makes it hard to keep track of children who need their shots, especially those who are not on official registers. With their blue cold storage box, Dakar’s North District team are taking vaccines to the streets. They’re finding the city’s hardest-to-reach children in the city’s suburbs to ensure their health isn’t overlooked.
Without infrastructure, it’s difficult for vaccinators to reach the people who need them. Alice is a mother in South Sudan who experiences these challenges, particularly during the rainy season.
“It has been very difficult to find medicines for the children. I had to travel far to the city for them to be given immunisations, and for my fourth child, it was too late. This has made me very determined to vaccinate all of the children, and now in fact there is a clinic in our village where we can take the children for protection.”
During a cholera outbreak in Zambia in 2018, Jonathan realised that community volunteers are essential to stopping the spread of outbreaks and keeping communities safe. He began administering oral cholera vaccines, contributing to about 600,000 doses getting distributed during the outbreak in early 2018.
Thank you to Gavi for providing these stories.
This blog was first published on 7 December 2018 and updated on 23 April 2020.