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Saluting the immunisation workforce

Images captured by workers on the vaccination frontlines tell a complex, kaleidoscopic story.

  • 26 April 2024
  • 3 min read
  • by Reda Sadki ,   Charlotte Mbuh
Moussa Traoré during a polio vaccination session in Tongo Tongo village, Douentza distric, Mali. Credit: The Geneva Learning Foundation
Moussa Traoré during a polio vaccination session in Tongo Tongo village, Douentza distric, Mali. Credit: The Geneva Learning Foundation
 

 

To mark World Immunization Week each year, the Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF) invites members of its international network to share photographs of themselves and their colleagues as they go about their daily work. The photos are informative and inspiring, showing how immunisation workers all over the globe are striving to protect young children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

For World Immunization Week 2023, more than 1,000 visual stories were shared, and a selection were published in a special celebratory compendium. These are not the carefully composed and technically accomplished shots of the professional photographer: rather, they capture a raw and authentic view of what immunisation means in practice. The transport challenges. The concerned and loving mothers. The curious onlookers. The dialogue between practitioners and community members. The schoolchildren waving their vaccination cards. The reams of paper-based data.

Community-based volunteers provide a vital link between immunisation programmes and local communities. Effective teamwork is essential.

This second annual gallery of photographs from 2023 celebrated the diversity of roles and challenges faced by immunisation workers in their daily lives, and their commitment to the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) goal of ensuring that every child and every family is protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

To achieve their goals, they may be working in health facilities offering immunisation services and other forms of primary health care. Or they may be taking part in outreach, delivering vaccines out in the communities where people live. Alternatively, they may be based in district or regional offices, providing oversight and offering "supportive supervision" – constructive feedback and advice to ensure practitioners can do their jobs better.

If they are among the many practitioners engaged in outreach activities, they may face multiple challenges. They may have to overcome geographical obstacles – rivers, flooding, poor roads, or just long distances. They may have to venture into areas of political instability or conflict. They may have to contact mobile populations whose precise location may be uncertain. And they may have to enter informal urban settings in a state of permanent flux.

Then, when they reach their destination, they may find that those they engage are not receptive to vaccination. They may have to spend time with people to help them understand the benefits and safety of vaccines.

Of course, actually vaccinating people is not the only task that needs to be undertaken. Vaccination programmes rely on a collective of people with a diverse range of roles, such as maintaining essential cold chain equipment, managing data and working with communities to build support for vaccination. Community-based volunteers provide a vital link between immunisation programmes and local communities. Effective teamwork is essential.

At the end of a long day, every vaccination practitioner can return home knowing that they have done their bit to make the world a healthier place, and just might have saved a life. These are the true heroes of immunisation, and we salute them.


Download The many faces of immunization (IA2030 Listening and Learning Report 5) (1.0). Special Event: World Immunization Week. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8166653

Download Listening and learning report 2. It takes people to make #VaccinesWork. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7010196

Making the invisible visible: storytelling the health impacts of climate change 
https://redasadki.me/2024/03/18/making-the-invisible-visible-storytelling-the-health-impacts-of-climate-change/

Visual storytelling for health: a photography workshop with Chris deBode for Teach to Reach 10
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMBbdb4yXVE