Shot in the arm for infant health.

L. Heise

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

1 Scopus citations


Recent experience in both Senegal and Syria demonstrates that immunization can be enhanced markedly in a short time if societies are mobilized. Senegal and Syria more than doubled their immunization levels in 1 year through nationwide campaigns and with the assistance and encouragement of the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Individuals and groups in both countries worked to educate parents. The main obstacles to making immunization programs effective have been political commitment and educational approaches that fail to involve the parents. Parents need to know that their children require a full course of vaccines during their 1st year and that pregnant women must be vaccinated against tetanus to protect their newborns. Precampaign surveys in Senegal and Syria revealed that few parents were familiar with immunization or with the protection it offers. In Senegal, UNICEF and health officials overcame this by using traditional communication in a creative way to inform and encourage parents. Health promoters mobilized teachers, trade union workers, religious leaders, and other respected individuals to educate parents about immunization and urge them to participate in the vaccination drive. Neighborhood leaders and local council members met with parents in their homes to explain the campaign. Syria, with about 4 times Senegal's per capita income and higher literacy rates, was in a somewhat better position to boost its immunization rates. Yet, precampaign surveys revealed that Syrian parents were as naive as parents in Senegal about the benefits of immunization. By 1987, this had changed dramatically. Syria boosted immunization rates close to 70% during 4 week-long vaccination drives staged in late 1986. Short-term campaigns, though short-term, can raise awareness, strengthen infrastructure, and immunize a pressing backlog of children. The challenge is to make immunization the birthright of all children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages2
Specialist publicationWorld watch
StatePublished - Mar 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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