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Three questions with Nargiza Fuzailova on Immunization
The last week of April is celebrated globally as the World Immunization Week to promote vaccination - a powerful healthcare tool that saves millions of lives worldwide.
We speak about importance of vaccination, responsibility of parents in giving the best start in the child life with Nargiza Fuzailova, Immunization Officer, UNICEF.
World Immunization Week aims to raise people’s awareness about vaccination. How important it is for parents to learn more about vaccines?
I would like to call on parents to have, at least, basic knowledge about the vaccines that are given to their children. They should know about the diseases which the vaccines help to prevent. Knowing more about them can help people make informed decisions when taking vaccines.
I believe that people bringing their children for vaccination should fully understand why they are doing this, and not blindly follow doctors' prescriptions. They should know what to expect from them and how they benefit children. This will also help parents stop being afraid of vaccines.
Last year UNICEF conducted a study to find out how well parents were informed about immunization and how widely they practiced it. It was really pleasing to see that over 50% of parents in Uzbekistan know what vaccination is. They may not have detailed information about the diseases against which the vaccines are used, but they know that immunization exists in our country and that their children have to be vaccinated. What is important they want their children to be vaccinated.
However, we learned that many parents think that vaccines are given to children under one year only. After that they stop paying attention to what is written in their vaccination records.
I believe that immunization should be a closely followed process for each child. To do this, parents only need to keep a record of vaccines given to their child. An easy way of doing this is to print out the vaccination calendar that is freely available on the Internet. You also can ask your doctor any time.
People also should remember that they do not have to be at their permanent place of residence to get their children vaccinated. Parents just need to request for a document confirming the vaccination and give it to doctors after returning to their home regions.
Where can parents find reliable information about vaccines?
The majority of parents in our country want to learn about immunization from medical workers. Medical workers are currently the most trusted source of information for them.
There is a lot of material available on the Internet and the media, which can be useful. However, talking to a doctor or a nurse is the best way of obtaining full, accurate and reliable information.
Doctors are able to give comprehensive information about any vaccine. There are lots of medical books about immunization and parents do not have to look through them to find answers to their questions. Doctors and visiting nurses can explain everything in a simple and succinct way, in just several sentences, based on their own experiences.
If parents have any questions, they can ask them when talking to doctors during immunization or any other time. They may or even should ask doctors: Why my child is taking this vaccine? Why we need it? How it works? How my child is supposed to feel before and after vaccination? What if the child’s body temperature rises?
Should parents talk to children about vaccines?
Of course, they should. I believe adults have to have conversations about vaccination with their children even if they are afraid of this. We need to talk to our children.
Choosing the right moment and right words is important. With little children, it is a good idea to try to keep it interactive, maybe use some illustrations or toys to explain how vaccines work. Browsing the Internet together and studying pictures can be a great fun too, at the same time helping to whet their curiosity about immunization. Children, who learn this way, tend to treat vaccination more seriously and fear it less.
Little children may not always remember what you told them - we do not remember everything we learned before we were 6-7 - but when they get this information again as adolescents, they will remember it better.
In my own family, I try to keep it transparent. I explain to my child every decision I make. When my daughter received the vaccines, I explained her about the diseases which those vaccines protect from. Told her consequences of those illnesses and problems they create. My child knew why she was receiving it.
Vaccination is an important part of children’s lives, and taking an active part in this process is a responsibility of parents. We have to do this not because the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the National Law on Guarantees of the Child Rights oblige us. We have to do it simply because we are parents. We have to look after them until they become adults, educate them and give them the opportunity to create a stable foundation for their adult lives.