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The term ‘vaccination’ is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as ‘treatment with a vaccine to produce immunity against a disease; inoculation’. In the past 60 years, vaccines prevented more than 2.5 million deaths each year, caused by various diseases like smallpox and polio.

The World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020 in May 2012 for counties to reach above 90% vaccination coverage, a target not reached by most countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The Public Health Pharmacy and Management Department in the School of Pharmacy, the Virology Department and the South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre (SAVIC) based at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in 2017 started an annual Vaccination Catch-up Campaign in Tshwane, in response to sub-optimal coverage rates. Prof Hannelie Meyer, Acting Head of the Department of Public Health Pharmacy and Management emphasised that such an initiative would give children the opportunity to catch-up on any scheduled vaccinations they might have missed or receive the ones that are due.

In 2018, the Vaccination Catch-up Campaign took place on three Saturdays at a BigSave store in Mabopane, Sekampaneng primary school in Hammanskraal and at Calvary church in Lusaka, Mamelodi, respectively. These locations were strategically chosen by the Department of Health, Tshwane District Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in accordance with their statistics.

“A small survey conducted during the campaign revealed that often children miss their vaccinations due to parents not having time during the week to go to the clinic. Furthermore, most parents reported that Saturdays are more convenient for them”, said Mr Kesentseng Jackson Mahlaba a PhD candidate in Pharmacy.

According to Mr Mahlaba, healthcare professionals should infiltrate areas of need and serve people by providing platforms that will improve access to healthcare services. Due to public-private partnerships, various partners and sponsors, namely Department of Health, SANOFI, SAVIC, BIOVAC, Big Save, the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa and SMUAPS contributed to the success of the campaign.

The campaign reached 675 children over the three Saturdays with over 50% of them receiving the tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine, given at 5 – 6 years and 12 years.