How Grace Delivers Vaccines to Children in Northern Uganda

Amref improves health care for African childrenPartnership with Rexall helps deliver vaccines to hard-to-reach communities

Vaccines are critically important for protecting children against deadly diseases, such as polio, tetanus, measles, whooping cough and diphtheria. In a country like Canada, with a robust health care system, getting a vaccine is relatively easy.

That’s not the case in remote communities in northern Uganda where families may live several hours by foot away from the closest health centre. Add to that the fact that, to be effective and safe, vaccines have to be kept at a specific temperature and getting a vaccine becomes a significant challenge in communities that lack basic electricity and refrigeration.

In northern Uganda where Amref Health Africa is working with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to deliver vaccines to children, vaccines make their way from the District Health Office to the immunization clinics in remote communities through motorcycles, bicycles, coolers and ice packs.  The project is supported by Rexall through its Shot For Shot program.

Vaccines are stored centrally at the District Health Office where refrigerators keep them at the right temperature and freezers keep the ice packs frozen.  Monthly trips by motorcycle are made to the remote Health Centres in the district to replenish vaccine stocks, and carry out routine maintenance on the gas powered fridges, a crucial piece in maintaining the  vaccines at the right temperature.

On scheduled outreach days in Lira District, Grace, the vaccination manager for the Ongica Health Centre, packs the vaccines into a cooler with ice packs, puts the cooler and other vaccination supplies into a box and straps it onto the back of one of the Health Centre’s bicycles.

Then, she’s off to ride the three or so kilometres to the vaccine clinic, taking place during a market day at the Cura Market.

Grace is joined by about five other Health Centre staff who immediately get to work setting up the vaccination clinic under a tree just across from the Market. Soon, mothers and their children start to line up – many of them knew this vaccination clinic was happening as their village had been visited by health workers and volunteers ahead of time to promote the clinic.

Grace and her colleagues give each child whatever vaccine they need, update each child’s Health Card, and keep track of all the vaccinations in a central book. This data will be reported back to the District Health Office to be included in the national health information.

At the end of the clinic, Grace packs the remaining vaccines into the box, loads it onto her bicycle, and rides back to the health centre.