Farida, 34, resident of Korowai DC, brought her 18-month-old baby for vaccination. Habiba received her second dose of the measles vaccine. Farida, without hesitation, also received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, having been vaccinated earlier this year.
“Protecting my child against measles is a divine responsibility,” said Farida. “But I always ask myself, if I protect my child against measles and die of COVID-19, what then have I achieved,” Farida asked rhetorically.
After successfully launching the integration of COVID-19 into routine immunization, Tanzania has been rolling out this process in several health facilities in the country.
With over 447 health team members comprising healthcare workers, recorders, and mobilizers, 86 supervisors from the region and five councils, WHO is supporting the government to control a recent outbreak of measles in the Tanga region and with funding from the Government of Canada through the Canada Grant for Vaccine Equity (Can GIVE), WHO and the government are sustaining the momentum for COVID-19 vaccination, especially for the elderly, healthcare workers, and people living with comorbidities.
“Reaching every eligible child to break the chain of the measles outbreak is our goal. We are not relenting till we protect them. The significant thing about this intervention is the integration of COVID-19 vaccines for the adults. We are committed to protecting and saving lives,” said Dr. Japhet Simeo, Regional Medical Officer, Tanga region.
The 5-day intensified vaccination exercise is reaching over 42,000 children aged 9 – 59 months, in addition to over 37,000 adults above 18 years against the COVID-19 disease. Other routine vaccines including polio, penta3, DPT, and rotavirus are offered according to the status of each child.
“The response to the measles outbreak in Tanga region integrated with COVID-19 is a further demonstration that Tanzania has adopted the new norm which prescribes the integration of COVID-19 into primary health care with WHO’s technical leadership and financial support,” stated Dr. William Mwengee, National Surveillance Officer at WHO.
As of November 2023, cases have been confirmed in Handeni Town Council, Kilindi, Korogwe, Mkinga and Handeni districts. Health workers and WHO are on the ground implementing the Periodic Intensification of Routine Immunization (PIRI), an intermittent vaccination exercise that depends on the epidemiology of the disease to break the chain of spread.
Today, many children like Habiba and mothers like Fatima are accessing protection against both measles and COVID-19.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.