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Experts: Maintain Immunization Achievements and Access to New Vaccines

Buenos Aires, 11 July 2011 (PAHO/WHO)—Maintain immunization achievements in the Americas, work to ensure equitable and sustainable access to new vaccines, and especially, keep up efforts with communities so that vaccines reach them and their vaccination programs continue: these were some of the main recommendations made by international experts on 8 July at the close of the XIX Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases of the Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

During this meeting, which was held in Buenos Aires, experts agreed on the need to continue efforts to preserve the achievements of immunization programs—such as the elimination of polio (in 1991) and endemic measles and rubella—within a global context characterized by greater human mobility among regions as well as access to information and opinions from a variety of sources, including sectors that do not support vaccination. They also called for continuing efforts towards equitable and sustainable access to new vaccines, such as those to prevent cervical cancer, pneumonia, and rotavirus. They pointed to the PAHO/WHO Revolving Fund as a mechanism that facilitates access to quality vaccines at affordable prices.

The meetings participants also agreed that work with communities should continue in order to ensure their access to vaccines and maintain their confidence in both vaccination as a means of preventing disease and immunization programs.

The President of the Technical Advisory Group, Dr. Ciro de Quadros, congratulated the countries of the Region and noted the steady progress that national immunization programs in the Americas have made year after year. He stressed that when faced with new global scenarios, the countries of the Region should continue to emphasize the values of solidarity and Pan Americanism that have characterized them. He called on the meeting’s participants to disseminate its conclusions and, in particular, urged the countries to communicate the results of their immunization programs.

The specific recommendations and conclusions of the meeting of the Technical Advisory Group include the following: 

  • Concerning measles and rubella elimination, countries were urged to achieve a high level of vaccination coverage and maintain high levels of epidemiological surveillance, especially given the potential for the importation of these diseases from other regions.
  • The countries of the Americas were called upon to continue using the oral polio vaccine until global eradication is achieved, and to maintain adequate surveillance of acute flaccid paralyses.
  • The countries were urged to consider introducing the new human papillomavirus vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer into their national vaccination programs.
  • A recommendation was made to continue Vaccination Week in the Americas and organize a World Vaccination Week for 2012.

The Technical Advisory Group also highlighted the work done by ProVac, a PAHO/WHO initiative that supports countries in decision-making about the introduction of new vaccines, and the role of national commissions in setting country immunization policy.

At the end of the meeting, to celebrate over 30 years of publication of the PAHO/WHO Immunization Newsletter, the e-book Thirty Years of the Immunization Newsletter: The History of the EPI in the Americas was launched. It contains over 2,500 articles on immunization-related debates and research.

Also announced was the Immunization Award to the Community of Uru Chipaya in Bolivia, which has prioritized vaccination activities and contributed substantially to the elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases. This community, located in the Department of Oruro, achieved a vaccination coverage rate of nearly 100%. In previous years, this award has been given to heads of immunization programs and health workers in Cuba, Bolivia, Guyana, and Jamaica, as well as to the immunization programs of El Salvador and Ecuador.

The meeting ended with speeches by PAHO/WHO Deputy Director, Dr. Jon Andrus; the PAHO/WHO Representative from Argentina, Dr. Pier Paolo Balladeli; PAHO/WHO Area Manager for Family and Community Health, Dr. Gina Tambini; and the Coordinator of the PAHO/WHO Immunization Team, Dr. Cuauhtémoc Ruiz.

The PAHO/WHO Technical Advisory Group on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases was created in 1985 to assist the Organization in the eradication of polio in the Region. Since then, it has been meeting every two years to discuss the progress made and obstacles faced by immunization programs, among other tasks.

The countries of the Hemisphere have been global leaders in the elimination or reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases. The Region was one of the first to eradicate smallpox (in 1971) and eliminate polio (in 1991). The last endemic case of measles was reported in 2002; and the last endemic case of rubella, in 2009. The countries of the Region, coordinated by PAHO/WHO, are currently in the process of documenting and officially verifying the elimination of both diseases.

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Leticia Linn | Media and Communications | PAHO/WHO Headquarters, Washington, DC, USA | Office phone: (+1-202) 974-3440 | Cell phone: (+1-202) 701-4005 | URL: www.paho.org

 
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