Public health is concerned with protecting and improving the health of people and their communities by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases.
Immunisation as a public health intervention offers a critical opportunity to elevate mother and newborn health on the broader health and development agenda and catalyze progress towards sustainable development. It protects mothers, the developing fetus, and young infants during vulnerable time in their lives.Maternal immunisation not only boosts the mother’s immunity against dangerous pathogens, but a mother’s antibodies can be passed to her unborn baby in-utero through the placenta or through breast milk thereby protecting her and the baby from life-threatening illnesses. For new-born babies, these maternal antibodies provide essential protection during a “window of vulnerability” when infants are too young to get their own immunizations.
There is progress in development and accessibility to life saving vaccines. However, some communities in developed and developing countries still harbour suspicions about such interventions. This mistrust affects proper and timely uptake of new vaccines. Low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) face challenges of misinformation and negative narratives around safety of vaccines and new medicines. Narratives like Africans are ‘guinea pigs’ for the western world have led to avoidance of life saving interventions.
Community engagements improve health literacy through collaborative processes between stakeholders and communities to identify the needs and pursue corrective strategies. They facilitate equal participation where everyone shares information, perspectives, clarification of viewpoints and developing solutions. Communities are empowered to develop local solutions to achieve common goals and to overcome barriers.
Researchers at Makerere University Centre for Health and Population research (MUCHAP) conducted such engagements in Eastern Uganda to discuss issues around immunization programs, vaccine safety and introduction of new vaccines for pregnant women. Emphasis was on joint problem identification and analysis to craft a preferred state. Sessions were participatory and empowering for members, deepened understanding through listening, and common goals and action points were developed. Participants understood vaccine preventable illnesses as both infectious and non-communicable diseases with some not having any known vaccine.
Some of their sentiments on maternal and neonatal immunization, and introduction of new vaccines were legitimate while others were inaccurate: ‘new vaccines should be brought to market when it has no side effects’;‘it is important to save lives of pregnant women if the older vaccines have weakened, new vaccines are good for pregnant women because many get affected with several medical problems, new vaccines will fight against the increasing diseases which are harmful to the health of pregnant women like candida’; ‘it may reduce the number of pregnant women who undergo caesarean section during times of delivery’. Such views point to vaccine acceptability.
Negative opinions related to immunization of pregnant women included: ‘during the introduction of Hepatitis B vaccine, some people were told that the vaccine may prevent them from giving birth’;‘new vaccines may lead to delivery of deformed babies’, and ‘they want to deter young potential mothers from producing children to control population size and their children will not be pregnant in future through the introduction of new vaccines’.
The two major causes of infant deaths that disproportionately impact those living in LMICs are Group B streptococcus (GBS) and respiratory syncytial disease (RSV). No licensed vaccines currently exist against GBS, but work is underway to develop a vaccine that can begiven to pregnant women so that newborns are protected even before birth. On the other hand, the treatments available for RSV are limited but several vaccines are in development.
As we wait for the vaccines in pipeline, it is important to listen to communities through engagements. This will (a) correct the misinformation and negative narratives, (b) mitigate the spread of negative stories by some groups out of ignorance (c) improve health literacy, and (e) access organic information from those impacted by such interventions. If the negative narratives are not explained to clear false impressions, we risk avoidable vaccine preventable morbidities and mortalities now and in future.
By Dan Kajungu Msc. PhD
Lead Research Scientist and Director, MUCHAP
Vaccines and Medicines safety Researcher
UniCare App: 24/7 Access to Counselling
The Counselling and Guidance Centre (CGC) has developed UniCare, a counselling App for the Makerere University community members (Staff and Students).
Do you have personal concerns that need addressing?
Do you need to improve your life skills?
Are you struggling with something and need to talk to someone professional in confidence?
Then download UniCare from the Play Store and use it at any time of your convenience.
You can access counselling services through instant messaging, phone calls and other forms.
Email: rbaguma[at]cit.ac.ug, henry.nsubuga[at]mak.ac.ug
Call for Applications: PhD Fellowships in Bioethics (4th Cohort)
Applications are invited for PhD fellowships in bioethics from Makerere University College of Health Sciences (CHS) faculty and individuals who participate in the academic activities of the college who are interested and COMMITTED to becoming bioethics scholars.
Successful applicants should be willing to become bioethics scholars as they work within the structured and mentored training programme with a focus on any aspect of international research bioethics related to Health Sciences. Funding will be available to support 2 successful doctoral candidates up to 3 years of accelerated training leading to the award of the Makerere University doctoral degree.
This training is open to faculty including people who contribute to teaching and research at Makerere University or one of its partner institutions in Uganda, who meet any of the following criteria:
a. Able to articulate a clear research bioethics problem of interest to them.
b. Demonstrate prior participation in bioethics, beyond having submitted research proposals to an IRB.
c. Demonstrate a basic understanding of bioethics in order to know that this is an appropriate next step for the applicant.
d. Demonstrate past active participation in bioethics in health service delivery or at the interface of health related ethical-legal issues
e. Provide evidence of experience in research in bioethics and or authorship in this field
f. Prior master’s level or fellowship level training in bioethics or related fields.
Criteria for Selection
- Demonstrated interest in doctoral research training and conducting research with a focus on
- Potential to handle rigorous academic requirements of the doctoral program.
- Having a plan for career development
- Capacity towards attaining research leadership and international recognition in bioethics.
- Female candidates and medical doctors are especially encouraged to apply
Applications must be submitted to makbioethics[at]gmail.com and should consist of a cover letter (1 page only), a resume (not more than 3 pages), a personal statement (Maximum 1 page), a Makerere University formatted PhD research concept (Maximum 10 pages) and two letters of recommendation (sent separately by the referees to makbioethics[at]gmail.com). The personal statement should include your contribution to the academic and research life of a department at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, your aspirations for career progression in the next 5-7 years, research interests and any information you consider relevant.
Closing date for the receipt of applications is 8th October 2021.
Enquiries can be forwarded to the PI, of the PhD bioethics research training Program on makbioethics[at]gmail.com
- Application deadline: October 8, 2021
- Interviews: October 15, 2021
- Notification date: October 22, 2021
- Proposed start date: November 1, 2021
Part of this training will take place at Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics in the USA in Year 1 for a total of 2-3 months. Successful candidates will receive a monthly stipend based on USA National Institutes of Health regulations, tuition, research funds and travel to the USA. Applicants should demonstrate excellent communications skills and will be expected to work as part of a highly motivated, result oriented bioethics group.
IDI Supports Wakiso’s Point of Care Electronic Medical Records
The Makerere University Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) Kampala Region HIV Project handed over equipment worth UGX 460,000,000 to the Wakiso District Leadership to support Point of Care Electronic Medical Records (EMR-POC). This was made possible with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The equipment includes Computers, furniture, biometric scanners and networking equipment for a wireless mesh. In attendance was the Wakiso District Leadership led by the Principal assistant secretary, Ms. Babirye Olivia, as well as representatives from IDI and Mildmay Uganda.