May 5, 2023- PAHO Guyana office collaborated with the Ministry of Health, Expanded Programme on Immunization, and the Department of Health in the launching of Vaccination Week of the Americas 2023 in region six, Tain, Berbice. This Vaccination Week of the Americas 2023 is celebrated under the theme: "Get up to date # Each Vaccine counts."
The main objective of Vaccination Week of the Americas is to promote awareness of the importance of immunization for all countries and to raise the public perception of the benefits of Vaccination. This initiative has supported the control of many vaccine-preventable diseases and the elimination of six vaccine-preventable diseases: polio, measles, congenital rubella syndrome, neonatal tetanus, hepatitis B, and smallpox.
Dr. Sharma, the Regional Health Officer, coordinated this activity with staff from the Department of Health, Region 6. The Vaccination Week launch was initiated by a road march with slogans and chanting on the importance of Vaccination. The participants included health workers, students, and community members. Health workers from regions 3, 5 and 6 collaborated and came out in their numbers. The march estimated to have a total of 800 to 1000 persons in attendance for the official opening ceremony.
PAHO /WHO representative Dr. Janice Woolford remarked on the history of Vaccination Week of America, which began in 2003. This year, we celebrate the 21st Vaccination Week of the Americas and the 12th World Immunization Week. The goal of VWA 2023 is to ensure that the country maintains polio and measles-free state with all other vaccine-preventable diseases. During the pandemic, over one million deaths were averted due to the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the population must continue the fight against this communicable disease.
Over the past 20 years, VWA has given governments a yearly opportunity to reach millions of people in a concerted effort with live-saving vaccines.
Our region's efforts inspired the world, and many other regions followed suit, leading to World Immunization Week in 2012. During VWA, every year, more than forty countries and territories in the Americas come together in April to vaccinate their populations, making a special effort to reach people who may not have regular access to health services, including Indigenous peoples, migrants, border populations, and people living on the urban fringe. Multiple events and extended service hours allow more people to receive missing vaccines at more convenient times and locations.
Guyana has made strides in Vaccination coverage making over 90% coverage for the last 10 years, and it is projected that this coverage will be maintained with the commitment of the Public Health staff. Dr. Woolford thanked the health workers for being at the forefront of the Vaccination, especially during the time of COVID-19 Vaccination. COVID-19 Vaccines have saved over one million lives, and there is a need to ensure that the population is protected.
Other speakers included the Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who congratulated the Region 6 team for the arduous work and urged them to continue to ensure that "No one is left behind in Vaccination." Regional Health Officer Dr. Sharma and Dr Delroy Pyle, Medical Officer, Maternal and Child Health Department, gave other remarks.
Presentations during the program included skits, folklore songs, and live entertainment by drummers. Appreciation presentations were made to various categories of health workers from the Department of Health in Region 6, the Ministry of Health, and PAHO/WHO.
Meanwhile, the week long vaccination week in the Americas activities ended in Region 9 the beautiful village of Surama at the Surama ego-lodge. Surama Village is as close as you will come to experiencing human civilization and the rainforest environment all in one. It is home to the Macushi Amerindian Tribe. The Surama Eco Lodge can be found in Surama Village.
In his remarks, Dr. Mc Watt, Regional Health Officer for Region 9, stated that the region is heading towards a One Health approach to make Region Nine more resilient for the people of region 9 to benefit from the comprehensive health care services. He also said in Surama, they would like the health Centre to move from level 1 to level 2 to add more healthcare services for residents to access within their community and not have to travel to the Annai community for healthcare service.
Dr. Oneka Scott, MCH Coordinator, reinforced the importance of being vaccinated and encouraged the community to provide their families, especially the children, with the necessary vaccines, which are given at birth up to adulthood to build their immunity.
In his remark, Mr. Bryan Allicock, Regional Chairman, region 9, said, "I continue to tell my people that covid-19 is still here, and the only way to control what is to come is to take all your vaccines. It is the safest way to protect yourself for the future. When you take the vaccines, it builds your immunity against the kind of diseases out there". He said agriculture has a significant part to play in our health. Once we eat healthy, we stay healthy. Control what you eat and nourish your body with the right foods to preserve your health.
The residents of Surama performed their traditional cultural presentations as part of the event. Residents also took the opportunity to take their covid-19 and yellow fever vaccines at the event.
PAHO/WHO country would continue to support all efforts to improve vaccination coverage in the regions to maintain the vaccination coverage at an acceptable level and prevent the transmission of Vaccine-preventable diseases.