More than 1.5 million children die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. During World Immunization Week it is important to highlight the great work that is going on aroudnthe world to combat these awful statistics.
One of the best weapons we have against the spread of diseases is vaccinations, but the secret weapon, is organisation.
Without organisation, children fall through the gaps, vaccinations are missed, and entire communities can be put at risk. This slidshow captures the varying ways different countires keep track of their vaccination efforts!
Immunisation records around the globe are used broadly to act as proof of vaccination for everyone from a child’s family to a country’s government. In most countries immunisation records are still written out by hand, which can make it difficult to extract data and cause complications if the record is lost.
Typically cards are retained by parents, often treasured as a symbol of hope for the child’s future health and prosperity.
However, cards are also important for health workers and those involved with implementing new vaccines. The more information they have about the numbers of children vaccinated in specific areas, the easier it is to measure the effectiveness of a particular vaccine, and the more prepared regional centres can be in anticipating demand and avoiding vaccine shortages.
Cards, like vaccinations themselves, can be given out in the homes of those living in the most rural places, as health workers conduct special visits to reach specific communities or those who are unable to travel.
As well as the vaccination card, other materials can also be given out during a house visit, such as those aimed at educating mothers about other aspects of child health and illness.
Cards are not the only methods used to track vaccinated populations. In India, the polio eradication effort found innovative ways to keep track of moving and unregistered children during campaigns, marking a child’s finger with indelible ink to signify their vaccination. Above, three year-old Himanshu has his pinky finger inked after receiving polio vaccine at the Old Railway Station in Delhi.
The immunisation landscape is also using technology to evolve. In the slideshow above, Sri Lankan nurses receive lessons on digital immunisation record-taking at the division office in Wattala, outside of Colombo.
Digital record-keeping can have other uses too. Again, above, baby Mwanahawsi has his general health recorded by a data clerk, as part of an effort to monitor levels of pneumonia post-vaccination in Kilifi District, Kenya.
However, the work of immunisation cards is far from finished. In some areas, keeping track of immunisation is a cultural challenge: above, Sister Sofia Benti prepares a vaccine for little Hamed in Alula Kebelethe, a rural Ethiopian community where recording children’s ages and vaccinations is not common.
More widely, as organisations like the GAVI Alliance work to decrease the number of children worldwide who go without basic vaccines, the immunisation card and its equivalents will remain an indispensable tool to help governments and NGOs track the progress and challenges of immunisation, just as they continue to help health workers ask the key question ‘Are you up to date?’.