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Immunization Module: Introduction

Introduction to the Immunization Module

Many serious communicable diseases are easily preventable by immunization. The World Health Organization estimates that it saves between two to three million lives every year — the majority in regions with low incomes, under-developed infrastructure and large rural populations. Immunization (vaccination) can make an enormous difference to the health of individuals, communities, and nations like Ethiopia. The vaccine-preventable diseases included in the National Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Ethiopia are tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, measles, pneumonia and meningitis due to Haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumonia due to pneumococcal bacteria, diarrhoeal disease due to rotavirus infection, and hepatitis B disease. An efficient and thorough immunization programme, in which the vaccines are stored and administered correctly, can prevent these diseases and hence save many lives — particularly of young children.

In this Module, you will learn how immunization can lead to the development of immunity and is therefore able to protect individuals from many life-threatening communicable diseases. You will also learn the correct route of administration for each vaccine, and about the rare contraindications that mean you should not vaccinate a particular child. Immunization is only effective if vaccine management is good, and if vaccines are administered safely, so we will tell you how to reduce the risk of adverse effects following immunization (AEFIs), and what to do if they occur. Vaccines must be kept at the correct temperature right from the time they leave the factory until the time they are injected into a person, or they lose their potency. How to maintain vaccines at the correct temperature is explained in the study session on the cold chain. We will teach you how to predict your community’s requirements for each vaccine, so that you can order enough doses and minimise wastage. Another important aspect you will learn is how to dispose safely of potentially hazardous waste materials, such as needles and syringes, after your immunization sessions.

Immunization campaigns are only successful if they are managed well, and if the community understands their significance. The importance of communication with parents and community leaders about the benefits of immunizing infants aged under one year and women of childbearing age (15 to 49 years) is emphasised throughout this Module. You will also learn about the effective organisation of immunization activities at your Health Post, in outreach sites, and in mobile teams. The ability to deliver improved immunization coverage rates and reduced levels of dropout from immunization programmes also requires excellent record-keeping, and thorough monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of your activities.

The ten study sessions in this Module contain clear guidelines on how to conduct all these important activities. Through these methods, Ethiopia has already had much success in reducing vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, the number of reported cases of measles was over 10,000 per year in 1980; although the total estimated population has more than doubled since then, the number of reported cases of measles was less than 1,200 in 2009. There have also been huge reductions in the reported cases of polio and neonatal tetanus since immunization against these diseases was introduced. Successes such as these are due to the rapid increase in the immunization coverage rate among target populations.

Much of the credit for successful immunization campaigns is due to the activities of health professionals like you. This is why you have such a big part to play in protecting women and children from vaccine-preventable diseases in your community. We hope that this Module will help you in this effort.