Red Cross takes to the streets and airwaves with the vaccination message

Published: 20 April 2012 15:25 CET

“Pay attention mums and dads!” So begins the latest song being played by the Red Cross sound truck in Port-au-Prince, announcing the upcoming vaccination campaign for children.

Targeting polio, measles and rubella in youngsters under ten, the Haitian Red Cross is throwing its weight behind the initiative to make sure the vaccination message gets through to as many families as possible.

“There’s been a big reaction to the sound truck on this campaign, everywhere I go we get a lot of people coming to me with questions, there’s a lot of interest,” says sound truck driver Floreal Fritzner.

“It’s a very effective way of reaching people, a lot of people tell me they had heard something about the vaccination campaign on the radio or somewhere else but the sound truck has provided more information for them. It really gives people a better understanding of what is happening.”

Alongside the sound truck, which will reach thousands of people in Port-au-Prince, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers across Haiti are visiting people’s homes, tens of thousands of posters and flyers have been printed, millions of text messages are being sent, twitter messages are being posted, and the Red Cross radio show, Radyo Kwa Rouj, is reaching people around the country with phone-ins and discussions on the benefits of vaccination.

Dr Myrtha Louissaint, health coordinator of the Haitian Red Cross explained that by working with the Haitian Ministry of Health, which is leading the vaccination campaign, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, together they can reach people with vital information.
“The Haitian Red Cross is working in really good collaboration the with Ministry of Health. For this vaccination campaign we’re using all of our resources, like SMS which we can send out thanks to the IFRC,” she says.

“We have about 1,200 trained Haitian Red Cross volunteers and they will be going out countrywide. We’re going to promote awareness in the streets and camps, we’re going to go from house to house to sensitize the population about the importance of being vaccinated.”

In La Piste camp which is home to a large number of people with disabilities, the sound truck has proved invaluable.

“I just found out about the vaccination campaign from the sound truck, I hadn’t heard about it before. It’s really important that the truck came because without that I wouldn’t know,” says Clausette Esperance as she cradles six-month-old daughter Naika, the youngest of her three children.

“I’ll definitely be taking my children to be vaccinated – I want to protect them.”

Nearby, Clausette’s neighbour Francois Cassandra says that she too will be taking her sons, four-year-old Kervens and three-year-old Mackenley, to receive their injections.

“I know that when we give vaccinations to the kids it protects them against disease, I want to get my children vaccinated to keep them safe,” she says.

“It’s great that so many children are going to be protected. Not everyone realises the importance of getting vaccinated, so it’s good the Red Cross is telling people about the campaign.”

To Floreal, this positive reaction to the information campaign, and his sound truck in particular, comes as no surprise. “People have been really happy to see me coming with the truck,” he says. “They come and ask me if they will have to pay for the vaccinations and I tell them that it will be free so they go away even happier.”

The Civil Society Constituency of the GAVI Alliance ―co-chaired by the IFRC―  would like to take this opportunity to reinforce our collective commitment to expanding equitable access to immunization, and to urge all partners to move forward together. Read the statement.
In celebration of the tremendous contributions of civil society to reaching the world’s children with vaccines, we would also like to highlight a recent set of “CSOs in immunisation” case studies from Pakistan. These lessons learned have been documented thanks to the dedication of GAVI CSO Constituency members in Pakistan.

Happy World Immunization Week,
The GAVI CSO Constituency and Steering Committee