World Polio day 2020: Importance of immunisations
October 24 is World Polio Day. In the Western Cape, routine vaccination services do not always reach all children and some children fell behind their immunisation schedule during lockdown.
Sumaya Peters and her team from Macassar Community Day Centre are faced with a huge task of getting children to catch up on their immunisation in the area. “Macassar has a lot of defaulters, so we go out to do door-to-door in order to find them and get the children’s vaccinations up to date. We give vaccinations at home as well,” explains Sumaya. Her team goes out to communities because people do not always come to the clinic. Sumaya is a Health Promoting Officer and is also a Western Cape on Wellness (WOW) Champion in Macassar CDC.
Polio is a highly infectious disease and mainly affects children under three years of age. It is caused by germs (polioviruses), which attack nerves, causing weakness or paralysis of the leg and/or arm and if severe, may involve respiratory or breathing muscles. The polio virus is excreted in stools and spreads rapidly from one person to another and often leaves its victims disabled.
Immunisation strengthens your child’s immune system and protect them from deadly diseases, such as polio, measles, hepatitis B, and diphtheria, tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis. Immunisation also keeps other children safe by eliminating or greatly decreasing dangerous diseases that used to spread from child to child.
“It is very important for all children to get their immunisations at the right time from our health facilities and it is free of charge. We encourage people to take the health and well-being of their children more seriously. They must not always wait for us to come to them but they should stand up and do what is right. They must always bring the child’s road to health booklet with when they come to visit the clinic for the child's health visits,” says Sumaya.
“There is no cure for polio, therefore vaccination against this disease is very important. The only way to stop the spread of polio is to immunise the baby as soon as possible, especially during the first thousand days of their lives. Parents must protect their babies’ lives by getting them vaccinated on time. Polio usually targets children below the age of five,” adds Sumaya.
“It is our duty to serve the community. We have to do it for the child, as it is one of the ways we can ensure a bright, healthy future. We are healthworkers and we have the duty to do so. We urge parents to bring their children for regular check-ups and to ensure their immunisations are up to date. Don’t let your kid be left behind,” says Sumaya.
“Malnutrition is another challenge many families are faced with. We encourage parents to eat healthy, nutritious foods. Eat lots of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit, dried beans, peas, and lentils, and avoid sugar and processed meats. We invite mothers to attend our antenatal groups where we teach them about healthy lifestyle choices and how to care for the babies from birth. We give advice to parents on how to keep the child’s health and properly fed for their weight,” concludes Sumaya.
Immunisation is available free at all Western Cape Government clinics.