Marie (in yellow) came with her four children at one of the vaccination sites set up by MSF in the Bangabola (DRC) health zone. Photo credit: Pacom Bagula

Childhood Immunisation Saves Lives

Photo credit: Pacom Bagula
Marie (in yellow) came with her four children at one of the vaccination sites set up by MSF in the Bangabola (DRC) health zone. Photo credit: Pacom Bagula

In May 2022, Marie brought her four children to be vaccinated against measles at one of the vaccination sites set up by MSF around Bangabola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

The MSF team had been sent in to respond to yet another measles outbreak in DRC. During 2022, MSF carried out 45 measles-related emergency interventions to protect children from measles, which was more than three-quarters of our emergency response in DRC. 

Measles is one of the most contagious and deadliest diseases to affect young children. It’s also – like many other childhood diseases – preventable through vaccination. Yet, families and caregivers, for a variety of reasons, sometimes can’t get easy access to the vaccine that could protect their children.  

That's why MSF’s vaccination work is so vital, including by catching up children with vaccinations they may have missed out on.  In Bangabola, our team vaccinated more than 33,000 children aged 6-59 months against measles. Beyond measles, the team also used the opportunity to vaccinate the children against other diseases.  

MSF vaccination activities  

MSF carries out vaccination activities in many places where we work to protect children. This includes reactive vaccination campaigns to help contain outbreaks of diseases such as measles, cholera, and yellow fever.   

We also carry out preventive vaccination campaigns with routine vaccines to protect children against a range of diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, tetanus.  

MSF also intervenes to ensure children who live in remote areas, far from any routine health care, can benefit from the protection of vaccines.  

However, there are still other barriers that stop many children getting vaccinated including: weak health systems and vaccination programs, difficulty accessing immunisation points especially by vulnerable groups, and government policies that don’t promote catching up children when they are identified, just to name a few. 

MSF is working in several ways to overcome barriers to childhood immunisation to ensure many more children’s lives can be protected. 

  • Encouraging Gavi to make a permanent policy change to provide financial support for vaccines for children over 1 year of age in alignment with WHO recommendations, and encouraging countries to urgently update their national vaccination policies to ensure that catch-up vaccinations for children up to at least the age of five are prioritised.  
  • Conducting mass vaccination campaigns in settings where access to vaccination is limited. For example, for five days MSF teams vaccinated more than 7,000 children from six months to 15 years old against measles and other diseases in northern Central African Republic (CAR) to increase health protection for the local community and Sudanese refugees who had been relocated to the city of Birao. 

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