Immunization against measles: a study of some cultural and socio-economic factors in Salawa sub-location, Baringo district, Kenya.
Kaime, M. Wanjikue
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since 1985 many of the world's nations committed themselves to an Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), a strategy through which all children would be immunized. As interna tional organizations and governments turned their attention on vaccine-preventable diseases, efforts and resources have been put into improving the infrastructure. Inspite of this, immunization coverage rates for measles in developing countries, although currently rising, remain unacceptably low. This study was an attempt to identify possible social and cultural factors related to measles immunization among the Tugen of Salawa in Kenya. Using a standardized questionnaire, a random sample of 123 mothers with children aged below five years were inter viewed. First an attempt was made to identify the mothers' knowledge on the cause, mode of transmission and symptoms of the disease. Second, the mothers' attitudes on the disease as it relates to prevention, trea'tmentand fatality were addressed. Of particular interest was ways in which the disease could be prevented and treated. Third, the mothers' knowledge on ~mmunization, specifically measles immunization, and their attitudes towards it was establish ed. Fourth, the influence of social and economic condi tions on immuniZ3tion was addressed. The findings show that measles is well known by name and all the mothers interviewed knew at least one or more correct symptoms of the disease. The majority of the mothers 119(96.7%) knew that measles was communicable through close contact with an infected child. However, none of the mothers mentioned the virus as the cause of measles. 69(56.1%) said measles was caused by wind/weather while 39(31.8%) said it came naturally on its own. Because measles is spread to children by wind, and by other child ren, or it just comes on its own, prevention against an attack makes no sense. What is more logical to the mothers is to reduce the severity once the disease attacks and subsequently avoid death. Majority of the mothers 91(74%) believed their children would suffer measles even after immunization. They however agreed that the disease would not be as severe as when the child had not been immunized. Immunization therefore is seen to reduce the severity when measles attacks and fits into their concept of prevention. 73(59.3%) of the mothers interviewed had completed the immunization shedule. Among the reasons given for not completing the schedule were that; the child was s~ck, the vaccine was unavailable at the clinic and the mother was busy. Only four mothers said they preferred traditional medicine exclusively to prevent measles. - - v - The findings in this study suggest that the mothers in this area perceive measles as a fatal disease from which their children must suffer. They have consequently adopted im munization because it promises to reduce severity when the disease attacks. In conclusion, the factors that were observed to hinder mothers from using measles immunization need to be addressed.