Childhood memories of struggling to make Kyate, a little boy, stand on his weak legs can never get out of my mind. I always told him that one day he would be able to stand; little did I know that polio would never let him do so.
There was nothing as painful to me at medical school as working on a patient I knew had chances of less than 10 per cent survival because they had active forms of hepatitis, tetanus or advanced stages of cancer of the cervix that would have been prevented by vaccination.
These experiences prompt me to emphasise the importance of vaccination and why we need to make use of this vaccination week. The operating model of all vaccinations is primary prevention.
In Uganda, the following diseases are immunised free of charge: Measles, diphtheria, polio, tuberculosis, pertussis, tetanus, Hepatitis B and of late influenza and pneumonia.
We cannot pretend that we do not understand the effects of these diseases on the those who survive them. It was always painful that Kyate had to make choices that suited his condition, like being the goal keeper during football matches, and other unimaginable experiences, especially when he had to use the washrooms.
And yet, all my friend Kyate’s parents needed was to have taken him to the nearest immunisation point but their refusal made the boy suffer life-long consequences. Imagine the suffering such people go through at the cost of just a free shot of an antigen?
I know some of you may still have myths that vaccinations are dangerous but the World Health Organisation, which oversees vaccine development and usage, always follows standard procedures and will never harm people. Also, the Ministry of Health has in place quality checks for all vaccines.
I urge parents to take their children to the nearest health centres to have them immunised. This chance can also be used by adults to tap into the free services of tetanus booster doses.
If you can afford it, use this week to go to the nearest health unit for Hepatitis B, yellow fever and for women, get human papilloma virus vaccination against cancer of the cervix, though these are likely to be in private setups.
It is our duty to take our children for vaccinations. This will not only save money in managing effects of these diseases, but also ensure we have a healthy and productive generation.