Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Vaccine for Tian and the dreams of Indonesian children

By Dinda Veska, PSFR Communication Officer

Tian (6). His inked little finger means he has received Measles and Rubella vaccine. @Dinda Veska/UNICEF Indonesia/2017
Surabaya: It’s not much past dawn and Tian is already at school. Unlike the majority of his classmates, he’s excited.

Today is vaccination day at Serba Guna Kindergarten in Tegal Sari, Surabaya, and most children dreaded the day; as health officers arrived, their shrill cries fill the room. Not Tian, though; he has looked forward to it.

“This won’t hurt, right?” he says approaching a health officer setting up the Measles-Rubella vaccines, part of the government’s biggest-ever immunization drive. “I want to be the first!” he says.

According to UNICEF Indonesia Health Specialist Dr. Kenny Peetosutan, some 30,000 Indonesians contracted Rubella between 2010-2015 – many of them children. And hundreds of children die each year from complications from Measles infections. The MR vaccine aims to protect children like Tian from both.

The campaign, which began 2 August of this year, aims to immunize 35 million children in Java against Measles and Rubella in a two month push at schools and health centres. The ultimate goal is to eliminate both diseases by 2020.

Tian and his friends from Serba Guna Kindergarten, Tegal Sari, celebrate after receiving the MR vaccines @Dinda Veska/UNICEF Indonesia/2017

So far, some 13 million children in Java between 9 months and 15 years of age have been vaccinated. UNICEF is supporting the campaign with real time data monitoring using Rapid Pro, an SMS-based reporting system. The software allows local health workers to instantly communicate immunization progress and troubleshoot problems.

If contracted by a pregnant women, Rubella can cause serious complications for her unborn child or even miscarriage. Dr. Kenny Peetosutan says that mass immunization of children, such as this campaign, is the first step to preventing the disease from spreading and protecting pregnant mothers and their babies.

“The bacteria and virus are around us. That’s why it’s important to ensure that all children get immunized. Eventually, [as group immunity builds] there becomes no room for the virus to affect the group,” Dr. Kenny says.

To meet the campaign goal to immunize 35 million children, everyone’s support is needed, including UNICEF’s donors who have been consistently showing their generosity. Their contribution ensures little children like Tian can grow and develop safely and helps to protect the future generation.

Tian getting the Measles and Rubella shot @Dinda Veska/UNICEF Indonesia/2017