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Bull World Health Organ. 2000; 78(2): 163–169.
PMCID: PMC2560685

Safety of immunization injections in Africa: not simply a problem of logistics.


In 1995, the WHO Regional Office for Africa launched a logistics project to address the four main areas of immunization logistics: the cold chain, transport, vaccine supply and quality, and the safety of injections in the countries of the region. The impact of this logistic approach on immunization injection safety was evaluated through surveys of injection procedures and an analysis of the injection materials (e.g. sterilizable or disposable syringes) chosen by the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and those actually seen to be used. Re-use of injection materials without sterilization, accidental needle-stick injuries among health care workers, and injection-related abscesses in patients were common in countries in the WHO African Region. Few health centres used time-steam saturation-temperature (TST) indicators to check the quality of sterilization and, in many centres, the injection equipment was boiled instead of being steam sterilized. Facilities for the proper disposal of used materials were rarely present. Although the official EPI choice was to use sterilizable equipment, use of a combination of sterilizable and disposable equipment was observed in the field. Unsafe injection practices in these countries were generally due to a failure to integrate nursing practices and public awareness with injection safety issues, and an absence of the influence of EPI managers on health care service delivery. Holistic rather than logistic approaches should be adopted to achieve safe injections in immunization, in the broader context of promoting safe vaccines and safety of all injections.

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