The odds were stacked against Guinea’s vaccination teams. The initial side effects of the measles vaccine can easily be mistaken for the first symptoms of hemorraghic fever and a false rumour had spread blaming the distribution of deworming pills in late 2013 for bringing Ebola into the country.
But thanks to an exhaustive door-to-door effort, promoting the benefits of the vaccine and dispelling myths about Ebola, nearly 100,000 children between the ages of six months and 10 years in Guinea’s southeastern Gueckedou region are now protected against the highly contagious measles virus.
Local communities were understandably suspicious of health workers and Western medicine, but many of them were open to persuasion, so health teams went around from village to village, talking to families and trying to ease their concerns. “Some people were quite afraid,” Anne Marie Sagno, a supervisor of the campaign from the World Health Organization (WHO) who is based in Gueckedou, told IRIN.
But we launched a strong (awareness) campaign in the lead-up to the vaccination week and have been working with local mosques, churches and traditional leaders to help educate people about the importance of vaccinating their children.”