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AFENET, CDC embark on defaulter tracing immunization training in Uganda

The African Field Epidemiology Training Program, with technical and financial support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) and in partnership with the Ministry of Health under the Expanded Program on Immunization, is supporting 3 districts in Uganda to improve their immunization coverage. 

This will be done through a project termed the defaulter tracing immunization project. Through this project, the teams will use the existing health systems and community to implement guidance to reach and recover zero dose and under-immunized children under 59 months of age in the districts of Bukomansimbi, Nakasongola, and Hoima. The AFENET team conducted a series of training from 4 - 9 April 2022 for Immunization Defaulter tracking and Catch-up vaccination in Nakasongola district, central Uganda in conjunction with the District Health Team, targeting Village Health Teams at the sub-county level.

The expected outcomes are to achieve an increase in immunization coverage and a reduction in the rate of zero doses and drop-out among children aged 12-59 in project districts.

Key activities will include continuous support supervision, bringing together district health teams, village health, teams, and healthcare providers to establish and implement defaulter tracking systems at the health facilities and in communities. Through defaulter tracking, AFENET and the ministry teams will be able to identify, track, follow up and refer defaulters from the communities back to the health facilities to receive their catch-up immunization doses.

In early 2020, the COVID19 pandemic caused widespread disruption of essential health services, globally. In Uganda, there was a reduced availability and demand for immunization services. Reported reasons for this included unwillingness of parents to leave their homes due to fear of infection with SARS-Cov2, lack of personal protective equipment, restrictions of population movement through curfews and lockdowns, and re-allocation of healthcare providers to support the COVID19 response. This reduced access to health services including child immunization, and led to increasing gaps in population immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly in children under one year of age. For example, from the period February 2020 to April 2022 during the first lockdown period of the COVID19 pandemic in Uganda, coverage among children under one year of age for the first dose of diphtheria-tetanus pertussis-containing vaccine (Penta1) in Uganda dropped from 92% to 79%, while the first dose coverage for measles-rubella vaccine dropped from 83% to 68%.