Vaccination Week in the Americas 2012 21-28 April

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“For you, for me, for everyone, get vaccinated”

Active ImageBelize City, 20 April 2012 – Promoted by PAHO/WHO, in collaboration with the Ministries of Health, including Belize, Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) has been celebrated in April since 2003 to raise awareness on how immunization saves lives and to keep the topic on the political agenda. This year the VWA marks two milestone events in public health: the 10th anniversary of Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) and the first ever World Immunization Week (WIW). With the theme “for you, for me, for everyone, get vaccinated” Belize, jointly with PAHO, is celebrating this week by administering multiple antigens in order to complete childhood vaccination schedules, placing emphasis on high-risk groups, defaulters and populations living in areas with low coverage. In 2004 Belize participated for the first time giving males between the ages of 5 and 35 years the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. A coverage of 96.9% was achieved with this initiative.

More than 365 million children, young people, men, women of childbearing age and older adults have been vaccinated as a result of activities conducted under the framework of VWA over the past nine years. This success has served as a model for other Regions of the WHO in the implementation of successful sister initiatives. As of 2011, Europe (2005), the Eastern Mediterranean (2010), Africa (2011) and the Western Pacific (2011) had each established their own sister initiatives which are carried out simultaneously with VWA but adapted to the needs of the respective Member States. In 2011, more than 180 countries and territories participated at the global level. This year the countries in the region of South-East Asia (SEARO) have committed to coming on board with their own initiatives.
In 2012, countries and territories have planned to target more than 44 million people across the age spectrum for vaccination against a wide range of diseases, including poliomyelitis, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome, measles, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, influenza and yellow fever, among others.  In Belize, it is estimated that 1000 children defaulters will be vaccinated with DPT and Polio booster doses, and the 1st & 2nd doses of MMR.

Additionally, most of those countries, including Belize, will use VWA to integrate other preventative health interventions with vaccination campaigns. In 2012, 17 countries and territories have reported plans to integrate activities such as deworming, supplementation with vitamin A, growth monitoring, cancer screening, distribution of water filters, BMI screening, and foot care demonstrations for diabetics, as part of the 10th anniversary of VWA.

Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions and prevents between 2-3 million deaths every year at the global level (WHO).   The benefits of immunization also extend to the entire family, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, and cancers (e.g. cervical and liver cancers) that occur in adolescence and adulthood.

The fact that immunization has made many infectious diseases rare or almost unheard of does not mean that immunization is no longer necessary. When vaccine coverage is not maintained at high levels, previously controlled diseases can make a dramatic comeback. This is why it is critical to continue vaccinating, even in the absence of disease. 

On 4 May, a sub-regional ceremony will be held in Bridgetown, Barbados to underscore the importance of vaccination in the Caribbean, and Ministers of Health of neighboring Caribbean countries, including Belize have been invited to attend the event in Bridgetown. 

The Pan American Health Organization, which is the Regional Office in the Americas of the World Health Organization, was founded in 1902, and works with all countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. The PAHO/WHO Country Office in Belize was established in the 1950s.