The faces behind vaccination: unpacking the attitudes, knowledge, and practices of staff of Cameroon's Expanded program on Immunization.
Saidu Y., Gu J., Ngenge BM., Nchinjoh SC., Adidja A., Nnang NE., Muteh NJ., Zambou VM., Mbanga CM., Agbor VN., Ousmane D., Njoh AA., Flegere J., Diack D., Wiwa O., Montomoli E., Clemens SAC., Clemens R.
BACKGROUND: Immunization is regarded as one of the most cost-effective public health interventions in global health. However, its cost-effectiveness depends greatly on the knowledge and skills of vaccinators. With the growing complexity of immunization programs, the need for a well-trained vaccination workforce cannot be overemphasized. In this study, we assessed the knowledge, attitudes, and practices among vaccination staff in Cameroon. METHODS: Through a descriptive cross-sectional design, we used structured questionnaires and observation guides to collect data from vaccination staff in health facilities that were selected by a multistage sampling method. Data were analyzed using STATA 13 software. RESULTS: Overall, we collected data from Expanded Program on Immunization focal staff in 265 health facilities across 68 health districts. Over half (53%) of the surveyed facilities were found in rural areas. Nearly two-thirds of health facilities had immunization focal staff with knowledge gaps for each of the four basic immunization indicators assessed. In other words, only 37% of staff knew how to estimate coverages, 36% knew how to inteprete the EPI monitoring curve, 35% knew how to prepare vaccine orders, and 37% knew how to estimate vaccine wastage. In terms of practices, staff waited for more than ten children to be present before opening a 20-dose vaccine vial in 63% of health facilities, and more than five children to be present before opening a 10-dose vaccine vial in 80% of surveyed facilities. Provision of vaccine-specific information (informing caregiver about vaccine received, explanation of benefits and potential side effects) during immunization sessions was suboptimal for the most part. CONCLUSION: This study suggests marked deficits in immunization knowledge among vaccination staff and exposes common attitudes and practices that could contribute to missed opportunities for vaccination and hinder vaccination coverage and equity in Cameroon. Our findings highlight the urgent need to invest in comprehensive capacity building of vaccination staff in Cameroon, especially now that the immunization program is becoming increasingly complex.