Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, 2 May 2023 (PAHO) – Antigua and Barbuda kicked off its observance of Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) 2023 with an opening ceremony held 24 April on the grounds of the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation, and the Environment.
Before the official VWA ceremony Nurses, Community Health Aids and Auxiliary staff participated in a march to the Ministry's Headquarters to educate the public on the importance of vaccines.
Hon. Sir Molwyn Joseph, Minister of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation and the Environment in his remarks stated, “This is an event I look forward to every year; there is a record of vaccination in Antigua and Barbuda except for the last two years that is one of the highest in the Americas and I want to say to the nurses that without your dedication and commitment that record would not exist.”
Minister Joseph reiterated the call of PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa to countries of the Americas on 20 April 2023 to urgently step-up routine vaccination programs as the risk of disease outbreaks in the Americas reaches a 30 year high due to a decline in vaccination coverage. This he recognized as an especially important moment in the history of Antigua and Barbuda and the nursing fraternity.
Minister Joseph implored nurses to “Don’t be weary in welldoing, continue with your commitment to ensure that every child that is born in this country gets the full regime of vaccines so that they don’t have to be victims of a disease.”
Superintendent of Public Health Nurses and the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Manager, Nurse Almarie Coates spoke about the challenges related to vaccine coverage. “Regarding the routine vaccine coverage, like other countries we lost momentum in 2020 and 2021; however, with resilience and perseverance we sprang into action. Strategies were utilized swiftly to improve our immunization coverage for 2022. Billboards were erected encouraging persons to take vaccines, public service announcements disseminated, one-on-one interviews took place, public education and the settings approach going into communities and visiting individuals.”
“Lamentably vaccine-controlled diseases have surfaced again in the region of the Americas; let this not become a reality in our country of Antigua and Barbuda. Immunization is a key component of primary health care and an indisputable human right; accordingly, the Ministry of Health is committed to ensure that every resident and citizen has access to vaccines, vaccines that are safe and effective,” said Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Terri-Ann Joseph.
The efforts and zeal of nurses were applauded for not only increasing the vaccination numbers but ensuring that there are sustained. Dr. Joseph also informed about the collaboration between the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation, and the Environment and PAHO to help strengthen epidemiology and surveillance: one action is an electronic vaccines database.
During the week, the Ministry disseminated on social media a series of video messages on the myths about immunization entitled “Debunking the Myths… Know the Facts!”
Other VWA activities included a Community Nursing Immunization Conference which took place 27 April at the Sir John E. St. Luce Conference Center. Doctors, Nurses and Community Health Aids participated in the conference which focused on a few areas, including the introduction of the Maternal Child and Adolescent Health Manual, Syndromic Surveillance, Vaccine and Immune Response and Immunization throughout Life Cycle.