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Nov 24, 2023   |   Blog Post

Community-first approach to vaccination saves lives

A mother weighs her child during a mobile clinic where vaccines are also given in Namarroi, Mozambique. (Photo Credit: Januario Bila)

By VillageReach

Originally posted on The Seattle Times. 

Improving routine vaccination for every child, no matter where they live, is one of the world’s most pressing health challenges. Big challenges demand bold solutions – and sometimes the most effective solutions are found by understanding diverse perspectives and community insights.

In Mozambique, a vaccine equity project developed by VillageReach called Let’s Talk about Vaccines!, known locally as Bate-Papo, is amplifying the voices of mothers, community members and health workers to address the challenges faced in vaccinating children under two years of age. This solution is contributing to a 56% increase in the average number of fully vaccinated children. The story of Wina, a young Mozambican mother, highlights the project’s impact.

Wina and her baby.

Wina’s story

In the quiet village of Mudine, Mozambique, young mother Wina arrived early at the mobile vaccination clinic with her baby, Regina, in her arms. A community health worker welcomed her with a smile, handing Wina a pictorial card illustrating the importance of vaccinations and a schedule of her baby’s upcoming immunizations. Wina was impressed.

“Today, I came to have my daughter vaccinated… They discussed caring for the baby during vaccination… I came here to listen to the health workers’ talk. They provided important information to prevent some diseases,” she said.

When Wina learned about VillageReach’s Let’s Talk about Vaccines! program she was eager to participate because local mothers like her designed the project. Mothers from her region were trained to research why children weren’t getting their routine vaccinations. They then partnered with key community members and the local health workforce to address these challenges.

Wina is one of many caregivers who have benefited from Let’s Talk about Vaccines! Viegas Fernando, a community health worker, explains, “What’s changing is that previously, caregivers hesitated to bring their children here for vaccination at the outreach, but now they are showing up … because of Bate-Papo.”

It is about trust. Increased trust in the “Expanded Programme on Immunization” has led to more mothers seeking immunizations, and the whole family is getting involved. Mothers’ burdens are reduced with more family members taking children for vaccinations. Empowering communities to make decisions about local health provision is helping to protect children from preventable diseases and giving them a better chance of a healthy life.

Women and their children and babies line up during an immunization session in Namarroi, Mozambique. (Photo Credit: Januario Bila)

From Africa to the USA

However, it isn’t just Mozambique that benefits from this community-first approach to vaccination. VillageReach is “locally driven, globally connected,” with work that improves health care access for people across the world every year.

VillageReach brought this African experience back home to Washington state by helping to establish high-volume COVID-19 vaccination sites across Washington. Since 2021, VillageReach has helped local health jurisdictions engage their communities and look at data in new ways to map neighborhood immunization rates and understand the unique barriers they face.

Over 23 years, VillageReach has developed people-centered health solutions that improve equity and access to care. Last year, VillageReach’s work increased access to quality health care for more than 70 million people. Whether improving vaccination rates for under-immunized children in Mozambique or working with local health jurisdictions in Washington state, VillageReach is at the forefront of health care innovation, meeting health challenges by putting people at the center of health care.

You can support VillageReach’s mission of transforming health care delivery to reach everyone by making a donation today.

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