Vaccination Week in the Americas, 2010
This year, the celebration of the 8th Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) will be held from 24 April to 1 May 2010. This year also marks the fifth European Immunization Week, sister initiative modeled after the success of VWA. And, this year, the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) of the World Health Organization (WHO) will also join the efforts and celebrate its own Vaccination Week, bringing the total participating countries globally to around 100.
Since its inception in the Region, VWA activities have strengthened national immunization programs, focusing on vaccinating difficult-to-reach populations in impoverished communities, border and rural areas, and in minority populations. As a result of VWA, more than 288 million individuals have been vaccinated to date. Additionally, VWA social communication campaigns, launching events, and press coverage have highlighted the importance of vaccination as a regional public good.
This year, multiple VWA launching events are being organized, including events in Nicaragua, on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and on the border between Suriname and French Guiana. This last event will serve as the first ever bi-Regional launch, linking the vaccination weeks of the Americas and Europe. The launching event is scheduled for 27 April and will count on the participation of PAHO Director, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, as well as high level authorities from the French and the Surinamese Ministry of Health.
In addition to this launching, national health authorities from both countries are preparing a series of workshops targeting health workers in border areas to share immunization practices. Due to the continuous displacement of border populations, immunization of a child does not always occur in the child’s country of origin; often immunization activities are carried out in neighboring countries. This presents additional challenges in the registration and follow-up of vaccination activities (administration of second, third, and booster doses).
The main objective of the workshops is to familiarize health workers in the use and interpretation of the vaccination record/card from their neighboring country, given that the cards are printed in different languages (Dutch, Portuguese, and English in the case of Suriname and French in the case of French Guiana). Workshops are scheduled to take place during VWA in three border cities: Saint Laurent (27 April) and Maripasula (19 May) in French Guiana and Stoelmanseiland (5 May) in Suriname. In addition, the two countries have committed to strengthening the reporting and sharing of epidemiological information and vaccination coverage data.
Despite language barriers, the Technical Cooperation among Countries project “South American borders free from measles and rubella” (South American TCC) constituted a mechanism of articulation that resulted in the identification and discussion of common problems related to immunization and the exploration of joint solutions. This project has also made it possible to strengthen the coordination and communication between staff members and technical health personnel at the local(border areas) and national levels, which will benefit future immunization projects.
The official launching event will take place in St. Laurent, at the French side of the Marowijne River, followed by a visit of the high-level delegation to the policlinic in Albina at the Surinamese side of the river. Counterparts from both countries are still working on the finalization of a well balanced program for the day.
As part of the official launching, the delegation will visit a Mother and Child Health clinic in St. Laurent to observe vaccination practices. After the official ceremonies, health workers in the border area, including physicians, health assistants, nurses and other health care workers, from both countries will join in a joint session of exchange of vaccination practices and experiences, to learn about each other’s programs and activities. This exchange will contribute to improvement of the knowledge and understanding of the health workers with regard to the health structures and programs in the same area and familiarization with the immunization schedules and vaccines used in the respective neighboring countries. It is also expected that this exchange will reinforce good practices in immunization, based on cooperation, equivalence and a common immunization book, and lead to improved vaccination coverage of the target populations in the same areas.
While the health workers will be discussing their experiences of work, the official delegation will cross the river to visit the policlinic of the Regional Health Services (RGD) in Albina, where a full program of activities will be implemented. The focus will be on family health and related health education/promotion activities. Vaccination activities will target the under 5-year population, the school children, young adults, adults, including pregnant women and the elderly.