TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

The Gambia shows consistent nationwide immunization rates

The Gambia successfully and consistently administers immunizations to infants and children, particularly when compared to other developing countries, according to a recent report.

In a report published by Oxford University Press in Health Policy and Planning, the authors found that The Gambia consistently reported high national coverage rates for most routine immunizations. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2009 The Gambia had coverage of above 95 percent for yellow fever, measles, the third dose of the diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccine, Haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis B and polio, Health Policy and Planning reports.

"In contrast to other developing countries, The Gambia has consistently reported high national coverage rates for most routine immunizations," the report said, according to Health Policy and Planning. "For many immunizations, coverage for one-year-olds is above 95 percent... The proportion of children receiving no vaccines at all is very low (3 percent) and the coverage of (Bacille Calmette-Guerin) immunization is high, indicating that the system of delivering immunizations at or close to birth works well."

The Gambia still faces immunization challenges. Between 2000 and 2006, the rate of full immunization decreased and only reached 55 percent nationally. Full immunization rate is defined as the number of children between 12 and 23 months of age receiving three doses of DTP, three doses of polio, BCG and measles vaccine prior to their first birthday as a percentage of the total number of children aged 12 to 23 months surveyed.

Additionally, coverage of post-birth immunizations like measles, which is given at nine months, is much lower. This indicates that challenges exist in The Gambia in the follow-up of children throughout the immunization schedule.

The government serves as the major healthcare provider in The Gambia, which adopted the primary healthcare strategy in 1979 to make healthcare more affordable and accessible to Gambians. As part of the PHC strategy, rural areas with a population of more than 400 were served by volunteer village health workers and traditional birth attendants since the 1980s, Health Policy and Planning reports.