Engaging Faith Communities on Immunization: What Next?
January 4, 2013
Preventable child deaths outrage everyone. Immunization campaigns save millions of children’s lives and therefore unite widely divergent communities. But the untapped potential for partnerships to extend vaccination coverage, especially involving religious actors, is large. Two critical challenges are important and offer great promise: extending newer vaccines (notably against rotavirus and pneumococcus) and reaching underserved populations (“the fifth child”). The support and cooperation of religious communities, at global and national levels, is essential for both—leaders and communities can help address challenges and prevent the grave problems that arise when religious leaders oppose vaccination (such as in Pakistan and Nigeria). In building partnerships there are four priorities: (a) informing populations and building trust; (b) focusing on underserved populations; (c) overcoming barriers to vaccination campaigns in tumultuous countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where faith networks are especially vital players; and (d) helping through holistic health approaches to “connect the dots” among different public health and welfare efforts to meet the needs of people and communities.