MASERU – People who delay or refuse vaccines for themselves or their children are, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), presenting a growing challenge for countries seeking to close the immunisation gap. While in some cases particular rural ethnic minorities and remote communities are affected, in other areas wealthy urban residents expressed concerns related to philosophical objectors.
Asked in the National Assembly by the Member of the Parliament for Thaba-Tseka, ’Mamoipone Senauoane, how soon the ’Matsaile Health Centre will be provided with child immunisation services, antiretroviral (ARV) dispensation and maternity check-ups, Minister of Health, Semano Sekatle, said the centre had previously been visited by flying doctors who would only provide care to the sick and injured patients in an organised period of time.
He said these were highly trained paramedics that provide care to sick patients in an aeromedical environment. However, he continued, the centre is currently working as a clinic, and due to unavailability of electricity in the area they do not have refrigeration facilities to store vaccine. Sekatle said they will have to take one from one clinic, which uses solar, so that they are able to offer child immunisation injection services to help protect infants, children and adolescents against infections that can be prevented.
He said health facilities need power, especially for maternity wards, operating rooms, medical warehouses and laboratories since these rely on electricity to power the lights, refrigerate vaccines and operate life-saving medical devices. Vaccines, according to WHO, improve health and prevent death if they are used, and immunisation programmes enable achievement and sustenance of high vaccine uptake rates. WHO also notes that vaccine hesitancy is not only an issue in high income countries, but is a complex, rapidly challenging global problem that varies widely.
Furthermore, WHO guidelines recommend early initiation of HIV positive patients on ARV therapy, irrespective of their clinical test and treat approach. Lesotho, like many other countries, introduced a strategy to achieve epidemic control. Sekatle said with regard to availability of ARVs at the centre, the ministry was still undertaking research to find out the number of patients who are on HIV treatment so that they can have a reliable database.
He said by early next year, they would have been achieved as an interminable solution since optimisation of dispensing programmes also require investigation to ensure practices that uphold positive effects of the intervention for patients are adopted. As for maternity check-up, the minister noted that the services are still being offered having commenced some time ago, and that there have not been any reports of challenges in that sphere.