Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Girl Effect, with the Government of Rwanda, this week announced plans to sustain and improve immunisation coverage in Rwanda.
Girl Effect is an no-profit organization with the goal of ending poverty globally with its work based on the belief that when given the opportunity, girls are able to lift their countries out of poverty.
The partnership, launched in Kenya, is a 13-month partnership that will use behavioural change communications to address gender related barriers to vaccine uptake.
Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO of Gavi, said they were entering a new phase of more intensive focus.
The last three years, she said, has increased awareness about the benefits of HPV vaccination.
HPV (Human papillomavirus (HPV) is believed to be the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).
"This new phase of our partnership will build on these initiatives, bring more intensive focus on gendered barriers to immunisation and ensure that no child is deprived of life-saving vaccines," she noted.
Gavi says it will, together with Girl Effect, partner with the Government to conduct research to understand persistent gender barriers to accessing health services and vaccination.
This will lead to developing tailored communication strategies to overcome them, they say.
According to Gavi, the partnership will leverage Ni Nyampinga, Rwanda’s first multi-platform youth brand launched by Girl Effect in 2011 which now translates to mass engagement amongst girls, parents and communities across Rwanda.
Girl Effect claims 79 per cent of Rwandans are aware of Ni Nyampinga and 42 per cent are consuming Ni Nyampinga content regularly,
The partnership will use media, both traditional and digital to develop innovative behaviour change focused communications that help drive health seeking behaviours and uptake of routine vaccination, as well as facilitate more positive and open conversations around health.
Jessica Posner Odede, the CEO of Girl Effect noted that they "will build on our experience to use behaviour change communications approaches to define a model for reducing gender barriers to immunisation."
That model, she said, can ultimately be scaled up to change the lives of adolescent girls and young women in Rwanda and beyond.
Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, the Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care indicated that vaccination was important for Rwanda.
"Vaccination is one of the most effective interventions and with the support of immunisation partners Rwanda has achieved a lot in terms of vaccination coverage," he said.
The results of the vaccination programmes in Rwanda have been promising.
In 2018 alone, 350,000 children were each vaccinated with the basic vaccine protecting against diphteria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) and therefore protected from life limiting and threatening diseases.
New vaccines have been successfully introduced since 2009 and the programme offers now 12 antigens in routine immunisation.
However, some challenges persist which pose threats to immunity, such as issues of cross-border transmission, vaccine hesitancy, and the need to vaccinate a new cohort of newborns each year.
Establishing the root causes of these challenges and the barriers to vaccine uptake is critical to ensuring that routine immunisation reaches every last child.
Gavi says Rwanda’s context provides an opportunity to develop innovative steps and solutions to reach the last five percent known to be the hardest to reach.Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu