Vaccination programmes are a big part of the clinic work at Nyangombe in Zambia. However, this was not always the case and staff have worked hard over the years to raise awareness of vaccines and their benefits. When Sybil and Gordon McKillop first came to Africa in 1982, deaths from infectious diseases such as measles were sadly very common. Vaccines were difficult to obtain, especially in rural settings. Distribution is often hindered by the ‘cold chain’, which is the technical term for transporting vaccines safely at a certain temperature. This ensures the vaccine keeps in good condition and remains effective.
There has recently been, and still is, a lot of media focus surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines. Facts can be mingled with rumours, making it difficult for people to know what is true and whether they are making the right choice. Suspicion of vaccines has also been present in Africa over the years, with local rumours about side effects from vaccinations – eg, sterility in women and stunting the growth of children. These same rumours continue to circulate and cause concern. To add to the problem, instead of rumours being passed on by word of mouth, they are now also driven by messages sent on cell phones. This can create a lot of confusion for people who think social media reports must be true.
At Nyangombe the staff have been working hard to ensure that everyone has the correct information to enable an informed choice. The turnout to receive the Covid-19 vaccines has not been encouraging, but this was similar to the early vaccination clinics held all those years ago. Clinics which were held for children, giving BCG and polio vaccines, for example, were poorly attended. Rumours abounded … and yet today these vaccination clinics are packed. For this we do thank the Lord for the privilege of helping the children grow up without the worry of so many dangerous diseases.