By Taddeo Bwambale
Parents whose children who are due for immunisation will be reminded through phone messages, under a new project by the health ministry to scale up immunisation.
The sms reminder system is part of renewed efforts by Government to encourage parents to complete doses for immunisation.
Children are immunized against Tuberculosis, Polio, Pneumonia, Meningitis, Tetanus, Measles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria and Hepatitis B.
Children must be immunised five times before the first birth day: at birth, six weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks and nine months.
Dr. Robert Mayanja, the manager Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI) said the system would monitor parents’ compliance with immunisation schedules.
“The system will capture the phone number of parents and dates when they are scheduled to take their children for immunisation,” he explained in an interview with New Vision.
A phone message will automatically be sent to a parent when a particular immunisation date approaches.
Mayanja said the ministry of health would soon pilot the system in conjunction with the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and UNICEF.
Uganda has nearly doubled routine immunisation coverage from 52% in 2012 to 98% in 2013.
However, drop-out rate (percentage of children who received the first dose but did not receive the third dose of the series) is still high.
Between January and December 2013, the drop-out rate for DPT3 (diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus vaccine) was at 9% and BCG (Measles) at 8%, meaning such children are still not safe.
Health workers are undergoing training to collect data on immunisation, with funding from the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI).
Districts will be equipped with computers and internet to aid electronic data storage, processing and transmission.
In an interview with New Vision, Dr John Matovu, the District Health Officer for Butaleja welcomed the system saying it would help in managing immunisation records in the district.
“The flow of information from rural areas is one of our biggest problems,” he said, noting that the district has only 48% of the required staff.
Dr Stephen Sebudde, the District Health Officer for Kanungu, told New Vision that follow up on immunisation was affected by low staffing and transport challenges.