Hesperian Health Guides

Health Workers: Key to Vaccinations

Health workers are the most important ingredient in any campaign to help children and adults get the vaccinations they need for everyone to stay healthy. Even if you are not the health worker giving the vaccination, people listen to your advice. As a member of the community, people trust you while they may not trust an outside visitor from a government vaccination program.

If you work in a health center or clinic:

  • Be friendly and welcoming to each parent. Let parents know that any question is a good question and they need not feel bad for asking.
a health worker speaking to a woman with her baby.
I will inject the vaccine very quickly so he feels less pain. Can you hug him close so he feels safe?
  • Because injections may hurt, do your best to make the experience better for the child. Maybe you can distract the child right after the injection with something that is brightly-colored or makes a sound.
  • In a group or to each family explain each vaccination and why it is needed, before giving the vaccination. Describe if it normally causes a mild fever or ache in the arm so that parents won’t worry. Explain what to do if parents notice any danger signs, such as an allergic reaction.
  • If the clinic has run out of a needed vaccine, see if it is available in another clinic or make a plan with the family about when they can come back. You can write a reminder on their clinic or vaccination card.
  • Help families keep vaccination records with a child health booklet or other method. This encourages people to plan and make decisions for their children’s health.
health worker speaking to a woman with a baby and a small child.
I’m sorry your bus was so late. We can still do the vaccinations today if you can wait a little. You came such a long way!

Many health clinics do not get all the resources they need. If this causes people to have a bad experience in the clinic, they might not come back to get a vaccination. But even with too few workers or supplies, find ways to improve people’s experience and make them feel good about visiting.

In the community, encourage families to get vaccinated:

  • Reach out to both mothers and fathers. Even though mothers usually bring the children to the clinic, when fathers also understand the importance of vaccines, children are more likely to get them. Maybe it will help to talk with grandparents or other family members too.
  • If a family is avoiding vaccinations, find out why. Maybe it is a problem with transport, money, or something else you can help solve. Reassure them about the safety and value of vaccinations.
  • Train and involve midwives or others who help pregnant women and new mothers so they can answer questions about vaccinations and help people get them.
  • Involve children in promoting vaccinations. If children learn about it in school, they can talk to their parents about vaccinations for siblings, family members, and neighbors.
  • Do what works in your community. Talking to people in their homes might help. Or you may find that parents like visiting the health center. Talking with teachers and religious or other leaders in the community can encourage more people to get vaccinated.

a woman speaking to a group of adults with a sign saying " why don't children get their vaccinations?" with reasons written below.

You know your community best. When organizing how to make sure all children get their vaccines, look at who you are trying to reach and what motivates them, what their concerns are, who makes which family decisions, and how to involve respected community leaders. Also find out if it is hard for people to get health advice and health services and what would make it easier.

teacher in a classroom of children with a blackboard saying "How do vaccines work?"
a health worker giving a girl an injection while a line of students stands behind her.
Schools can teach young people about the importance of vaccines and the science of how they work. Vaccination programs can also reach children by offering vaccinations at school.

three women and one man speaking.

Radio spots in all languages work well for us.
I am my town council’s vaccination champion. I get people excited and involved.
Parents like the reminder texts our clinic sends out about vaccinations.
I help my church group find trustworthy information on vaccinations.

Public participation: A vaccination for equality

Vaccinations eliminate or reduce the spread of many sicknesses that previously caused death or serious health problems. But this is most true where vaccinations are free or inexpensive, and the health systems that deliver them work. That’s why vaccinations are too important to leave to governments and pharmaceutical companies. Health workers, teachers, and other community leaders need to speak up to ensure vaccinations are always safe, given at no cost, and available to everyone who needs them, young and old. People need to pressure their governments to solve problems of unsafe water, lack of sanitation, poverty, discrimination, and lack of vaccinations— all of which cause poor health.

This page was updated:23 Aug 2019