Smiling and carrying her tiny 2-month-old baby, Lian Douglas, Rose Mary Limachi arrived at a launching ceremony for the 9th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas at on the border crossing between Peru and Bolivia known as Kasani.
It was a sunny day, and Lake Titicaca formed the backdrop as the young mother and child climbed onto the stage with Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization; Nila Heredia, Minister of Health and Sports of Bolivia; and Zarela Solís, Vice-Minister of Health of Peru.
"I am very happy to be here because I am performing the greatest act of love that I can toward my son, which is to vaccinate him. I left my work at a restaurant in Yuyungo (Peru) to come here and get a pneumococcal vaccine for my child," she told an audience of hundreds, including government officials, health workers, members of the public, and journalists who cover childhood vaccination.
"I think every vaccine we get is beneficial for my baby and for my family," said the young mother. "I know a lot about this, because health workers have come to my house to explain the importance of vaccines and to remind me when it's time for the next one."
During the launching ceremony, she listened carefully to the words of Dr. Roses, who said, "Vaccines have made it possible to prevent many deaths and disabling diseases-deafness, blindness and mental health problems-that can hold back the development of people and societies. Since 2003, more than 323 million people have been vaccinated against measles, rubella, polio, hepatitis B, influenza, diphtheria, and tetanus as a result of this initiative. Vaccines are a marvelous gift of science. Let us enjoy vaccination as it gets going in these two countries, because is a right of the people."
Fighting cervical cancer
Also participating in the launch of Vaccination Week in the Americas was Tania Maribel Quispe Chura, an 11-year-old who was enthusiastic about receiving a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
"This is my first dose. They've explained to me that it's important, and that's why I came here with my father," she said smiling. Her father, Ciriaco Quispe, should know: he's a nurse-technician in the immunization program of the Yunguyo Health Network.
"I want to take this opportunity to call upon all parents who have not still vaccinated their daughters to come to the nearest health facility and protect them against this terrible disease," said Mr. Quispe. Remember: vaccination is an act of love.
By Inés Calderón and Henry Sanchez