|Vaccination - an Act of Love|
20 April 2012 | KINGSTON/JAMAICA –
Starting on 21 April 2012, the World Health Organization is uniting countries across the globe for a week of vaccination campaigns, public education and information sharing under the umbrella of World Immunization Week. In 2003, the first Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) was observed and its tenth anniversary will be celebrated from 21-28 April 2012. During the last 9 years, VWA has grown to become the largest multi-country health effort in the Western Hemisphere, with participation of all countries and territories in the Americas and more than 350 million individuals vaccinated under the initiative’s framework. Working together, countries and territories in the Americas have been on the global forefront in the eradication and elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination Week is an opportunity to underscore the importance of immunization in saving lives. The theme of this year’s Vaccination Week is “Vaccination: an Act of Love – For you, for me, for everyone: Get vaccinated”.
Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson says that “in celebration of the 50thanniversary of Jamaica’s independence, we recognize the National Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) as one of the country’s flagship programs. This Program has been the backbone of preventive primary health care services. EPI was established in Jamaica in 1977 and has contributed to the reduction in infant mortality and the epidemiologic transition of diseases. National coverage levels for the basic childhood vaccines are generally over 90%. Specifically, polio was eradicated in 1982, endemic measles transmission was interrupted in 1991, and rubella circulation was interrupted in 2000. Despite these gains and the high coverage levels achieved by most countries, gaps in vaccination still exist.”
“From infants to senior citizens, immunization prevents debilitating illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. Regulations promulgated in 1986 under the Public Health Act make it the duty of every parent to have their child immunized and require all children under the age of seven years to be adequately vaccinated for their age prior to school entry. The benefits of immunization are increasingly being extended to adolescents and adults, providing protection against life-threatening diseases that occur in adulthood. Ironically, the fact that immunization has made many infectious diseases rare or almost unheard of can lead to the opinion among parents and health professionals that immunization is no longer necessary. However, persons who are not immunized are the most susceptible and pose a risk for disease outbreaks. In working to improve our performance we must focus on existing gaps and on diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio which we see resurfacing in some areas. One reality is that in many instances we can have imported cases of diseases such as measles that put our population at risk. Jamaica’s extensive tourism industry puts the population at risk of importation of vaccine preventable diseases. For example, importations of cases of measles have occurred over the past twelve to thirteen years emphasizing the need for active and timely surveillance,” says Minister Ferguson.
Ms. Margareta Sköld, Country Representative of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization in Jamaica, says that “disease outbreaks affect everyone and immunization is and remains one of the safest and most cost-effective interventions in health. Linking another intervention to a strong immunization program has the possibility to quickly increase coverage and impact for the added intervention. For instance, some countries have reported that they had taken advantage of the platform created from Vaccination Week in the Americas to integrate other preventative health interventions such as vitamin A supplementation, deworming treatment, and various screening procedures, as part of the initiative. Close cooperation and combined efforts between countries and international and local partners have also been a distinctive characteristic of Vaccination Week in the Americas. The PAHO Revolving Fund for Vaccine Procurement has been a key instrument as well. This fund – the only such mechanism in the world – allows 39 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean to benefit from significant economies of scale and a timely supply of high-quality vaccines at the lowest prices.”
The role of parents is important to ensuring that their children are vaccinated against preventable diseases so that they are kept healthy and well. Parents are therefore urged to make sure that their children are fully immunized for their age.
For more information please contact:
Mrs. Stephanie Shaw Smith
Manager, Public Relations & Communication
Ministry of Health
Dr. Karen Lewis Bell
Director, Family Health
Ministry of Health
Ms. Margareta Sköld
Telephone: 967-4626 or 967-4691