Despite the free availability of vaccines in the country, Pakistan is still far behind in achieving the universal coverage of child immunization as only 66% of children are fully immunized. The immunization coverage rate is even lower in Sindh at 49% only.
Amongst the significant barriers that result in low immunization coverage in Pakistan, are distantly located and hard to access vaccination centers coupled with the shortage of affordable and reliable means of transportation.
Broadening the means for access to immunization services is crucial – for cities like Karachi, where outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, like polio and measles, are still common, in high-risk populations – and for achieving universal immunization coverage and equity.
To overcome the challenges of access to immunization in the low-coverage and high-risk areas in Karachi, IRD, in collaboration with EPI Sindh, launched the Mobile Immunization Vans project in April 2019.
IRD launched five mobile vans in the eight super high-risk union councils in Karachi to bring the immunization services to the doorstep of communities who otherwise find it difficult to access the immunization centers. The Mobile Vans initiative also allows mothers to get their children vaccinated without leaving their neighborhood and avoid delays due to the unavailability of male members.
Moreover, the mobile vans are decorated with immunization-related slogans to create awareness of the benefits of vaccines. The vans are also equipped with a sound system to let the community know about the presence of immunization vans in their area.
Lady health workers and social mobilizers carry out community mobilization in the area to attain maximum coverage.
Records of all the children immunized through mobile vans are entered in the government’s Electronic Immunization Registry for tracking the immunization coverage in the province, and in following up with the caregivers regarding subsequent vaccine doses of their children.
Five IRD mobile vans are currently operational in the high-risk and Super High-Risk Union Councils (SHRUCs) in Karachi, Sindh. As of May 2021, the IRD’s Mobile Immunization Vans have immunized more than 24,000 children.
In January 2021, Mobile Vans expanded its outreach and deployed one of its mobile immunization vans in district Kashmore to target the zero-dose (children who have never been immunized) and overdue children. During the activity in Kashmore, the mobile van team immunized 402 children.
The IRD Mobile Vans team plans to expand its operations to other remote districts of Sindh as well as to target the zero-dose clusters in the rural areas of interior Sindh.