Vaccines are transforming the health of people and communities across Africa. Every year, millions of lives are saved.
Gavi, a global vaccine alliance of public and private organisations, has supported the immunisation of 700 million children and saved 10 million lives worldwide. This wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, nurses, doctors, advocates and parents: the vaccine heroes. Often travelling great distances over difficult terrain carrying vaccines, sometimes in areas where their own safety is seriously at risk.
Meet some of these incredible people dedicated to protecting children with life-saving vaccines.
Madeleine, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
It takes hard work to keep vaccines cool when there are frequent power cuts. But with the help of solar fridges (funded by Gavi) nurses like Madeleine, can carry vaccines in cool boxes on foot through Kinshasa.
Sister Sofia, Ethiopia
In rural areas like Afar, a rural herding community in Ethiopia, very few children have traditionally received vaccines against measles. Sister Sofia not only has to find children and families that are often on the move, she also has to convince parents that immunisation is important and worthwhile.
Carolyn, a widowed mother of seven from Grand Bassa County in rural Liberia, has been a vaccinator for 32 years – she is the longest serving female vaccinator in Liberia. She has contributed to the survival of approximately 100,000 children within the Bushrod community outside the capital Monrovia. She has cultivated deep relationships over the years with many parents and caregivers.
Agnes and Gabriel, Nigeria
Lack of transportation can sometimes mean that hard-to-reach communities don’t get the vaccines they need. That’s why health workers Agnes & Gabriel, here in Ondo State, Nigeria, use a motorcycle to help make sure that children in the remotest areas can 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 recently helped spread the word about her country’s HPV (virus linked to cervical cancer) vaccination pilot project, and organised immunisation sessions in her school. “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 as many may not be on official registers. Dakar’s North District team are literally taking vaccines to the streets, finding the city’s hardest-to-reach children by taxi. With their blue cold storage box filled with vaccines, they go into the city’s suburbs: home to a mix of young families and mobile migrants.
Many areas lack infrastructure, making it difficult for vaccinators to reach people and vice versa. 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.”
After realising that community volunteers were necessary to combat a cholera outbreak in Zambia, Jonathon became heavily involved in administering oral cholera vaccines. Overall, 600,000 doses of cholera vaccine were distributed during the outbreak in early 2018.
Looking to the future
Gavi recently brought together over 300 global health leaders, including governments, civil society organizations, and private sector partners (UAE,10-11 December). It was an opportunity to celebrate the millions of lives saved so far, and set out a vision for the future. During the meeting, partners recommitted to the fight and new alliances were formed, including with Mastercard who will use their expertise to help set-up digital immunisation records. And with Parsyl, to monitor the quality of vaccines – many of which become useless if not kept at a constant temperature.
Gavi are well on the way to making vaccines more affordable and available, enabling many of the world’s poorest countries to sustainably provide better healthcare and save millions more lives.
A big thank you to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) for providing the story.