Eager Crowds Stress Vaccination Campaign

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK In an effort to reduce overcrowding and a shortage of polio vaccines, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has identified the Katutura Health Centre and District Office (Old TB Hospital) as focal points for stock supply. The District Office is situated near the National Health Training Centre in Khomasdal. Congestion of people and a low supply of the polio vaccine, which occurred yesterday at most outlets in Windhoek, prompted this urgent action so that the vaccines can be distributed more quickly. According to Khomas Regional Health Director Dr Ithindi Shipanga, the unpredictability of the number of people at some of the vaccination points led to this congestion and ultimately to a shortage of polio vaccines. Problems with large crowds of people and low vaccine supplies therefore marked the first day of the country’s mass immunisation polio campaign at many of the vaccination points in and around the capital. As early as six o’clock in the morning thousands of people flocked to the vaccination outlets eager to get their two polio drops. However, as the day progressed towards 10:00 some of the places ran out of vaccines as some were undersupplied from the start while other outlets were oversupplied. This left many of the people that had queued up promptly rather frustrated and angry and they even moved to other areas where there were still vaccines. When the New Era news team visited some of the vaccination points it became apparent that the turnout was exceptionally good seeing that it was the first day and many people were eager to get their dose. Health Official Martha Felix at the Pelican Square Hochland Park site said that till 14:30 they had received close to 1500 adults and 150 children. However, they quickly ran out of stock by 11:00 that same morning and had to be re-stocked in order to cope with the high number of people coming in yesterday. “I am very impressed by the high level of interest shown by the public,” said Felix, adding that she hopes that the stock would be continuously available from today onwards. While this point only had close to ten people in waiting, close to 100 others were at the Hochland Park Spar shopping centre. Some were even schoolchildren who said that they came there because it was not being offered at school. “I don’t know, but we were not told anything about where to go,” said one learner from Academia Secondary School. At the start of the campaign, some volunteers also turned up late at most of the points, like at Soweto Market, which even started late at around 09:30. In response to this situation, Khomas Regional Health Director Dr Shipanga told New Era that what happened was that “some of the volunteers that were meant to be there at the various points never pitched”, and alternative arrangements were made to source other volunteers from elsewhere. However, she noted that no process can be smooth sailing immediately. While some of the points dealt with over 1000 people, others scored much higher figures of between 2000 and 4000 at the end of the first day yesterday. One such place was at the Khomasdal Clinic which by late afternoon had treated 2700 adults and 440 children. “We even got some school children coming in,” said the facilitator at this point. Yet at the Dorado Valley Shopping Centre many people left disappointed since there was not enough vaccine there by mid morning. “We only have three bottles left now and people are very angry and I’m sure the Open Line Radio programme will be chatting away,” said a health assistant showing the empty boxes. One box carries 10 vaccine bottles and one bottle caters for 10 people as each person only gets two polio drops. “Some people are even complaining that two polio drops are not enough for a dangerous disease that killed so many people,” added volunteer Pancho Mulongeni saying that they are not assured of more supply as from today. As for the Katutura Clinic and Single Quarters Police Station outlets, people came in their masses in a very chaotic fashion. “My goodness, people were all over,” said one health facilitator. Police officials also had to be called in to maintain law and order. For many of those who did get their dose yesterday, they understand the importance of being there in the first place. “It’s a bitter taste but prevention is better than cure,” said one mother who had just received her drops with her two kids. Generally health authorities feel that hiccups can however be expected in the beginning, and, as of today, the Khomas Region will look into having monitoring teams that can react more quickly to outlets where supplies run out.