Zimbabwe Child Immunization Campaign Gets Positive Response

Ntungamili Nkomo & Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye | Washington DC

Zimbabwean doctors have reported an overwhelming response to the immunization campaign launched Monday against measles and polio, targeting about two million children under the age of five.

Winding queues formed at clinics and hospitals as parents heeded calls by the health ministry to take advantage of the all-out vaccination drive ending Saturday.

Doctors in cities and towns like Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gwanda and Plumtree told VOA that by late Tuesday they had vaccinated hundreds of children and administered Vitamin A supplements.

Mobile service provider, Econet has been reaching out to members of the public, alerting its subscribers by SMS since weekend to the immunization program.

A text message to subscribers reads: “Please bring children under five years to a health facility and vaccination points for measles and oral polio vaccination including Vitamin A supplements from 18 June to 23 June.”

Official statistics show that at least 100 children die of largely preventable diseases in the country everyday, and officials say the weeklong campaign is meant to undo the worrying mortality trend.

Dr. Wedu Ndebele, a paediatrician at the Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo said: "Today is only the second day but we are seeing large numbers in certain centers, especially those with higher populations. People are responding very well."

Bessie Chari, a parent in Mutare, Manicaland province, said clinics and hospitals in her neighborhood were kept busy the whole day. She urged officials to vigorously reach out to religious sects that traditionally shun immunization.

However, in Gokwe, Midlands province, some parents, including George Moyo said they only got word of the campaign on Tuesday and were yet to visit the vaccination centers.

“We just heard about the immunization program from text messages sent to our phones just a few minutes ago, and we hope to inform out wives when we get home in the evening," Moyo told VOA.

The government is partnering with the United Nation Children's Fund, or UNICEF, the Measles-Rubella Initiative, American Red Cross, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control, among others.