Washington, DC, 18 April 2019 (PAHO/WHO)- Vaccination Week in the Americas, which is celebrated from April 20-27, is a call to protect the community, with the goal of immunizing 70 million people against vaccine preventable diseases. The initiative, which has been promoted since 2003 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), aims to raise awareness of the benefits of vaccines and protect people.

“Protect your community. Do your part” is this year’s theme, with a special focus on ending measles outbreaks and protecting the Region’s achievements. Around 22 countries in the Region plan to vaccinate more than 2.25 million children and adults against this disease, which has reported outbreaks in several countries.

“It is the duty of each one of us to do our part in promoting vaccination whatever our role: from health workers to authorities, but also as parents, grandparents, teachers, mayors, and community leaders.”

Director of PAHO, Carissa F. Etienne

During this Vaccination Week, 45 countries and territories of the Americas will actively participate in reaching almost 70 million people with vaccines against measles, polio, influenza and the Human Papilloma Virus, among others. At least 19 countries and territories will intensify national immunization program activities in order to update or complete vaccination schedules in children. A variety of strategies will be employed, including fixed and mobile vaccination posts, vaccination brigades going house-to-house, communication efforts encouraging parents to bring their children to the nearest health centers, and the administration of school-based vaccination to reach older children and adolescents for booster doses.

“We all benefit from the protection offered by vaccines. However, we must ensure that all populations are vaccinated, as is their right. For that, we must make special efforts to reach people who live in remote areas, more deprived neighborhoods, indigenous communities, migrant populations, and people who do not have regular access to health systems, leaving no one behind,” said Etienne.

In the last 17 years, more than 740 million people of all ages have been vaccinated against a wide range of diseases during Vaccination Week. In addition to this, within the framework of the initiative, many countries allocate health personnel and economic resources to vaccinate people living in remote areas, indigenous communities, and those with limited access to health services.

The regional launch of Vaccination Week will be held on 22 April in Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brazil, with the participation of the Director of PAHO and the highest health authorities in the country, among others. Other launches are planned this week, both nationally, binationally, and even trinationally throughout the Region.

Girl being vaccinated

Vaccination Week in the Americas is also an opportunity to protect achievements such as the elimination of polio. This year marks 25 years since the Region of the Americas became the first in the world to be declared free of polio. There are currently three countries in the world with endemic polio circulation (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria). However, until polio is eliminated worldwide, the Americas remains at risk. This is why it is necessary for countries to remain vigilant and keep their populations protected from this disease. In order to ensure this, at least 17 countries incorporated vaccination against poliomyelitis as part of Vaccination Week.

Vaccination Week in the Americas has been used as a platform to integrate other preventative and promotional health interventions, such as vitamin A distribution, deworming, control of vector-borne diseases and health assessment, among others. This year, at least 18 countries have plans to do this type of activity within the framework of the campaign.

In 2012, Vaccination Week in the Americas became a global movement, when the World Health Assembly established World Immunization Week, which will be celebrated this year for the 8th year running, involving 180 countries around the world.

The Region of the Americas is a global reference in immunizations. In 1971, it became the first region in the world to eliminate smallpox. In 1994, it achieved certification for the elimination of poliomyelitis. In 2015, it ended rubella and congenital rubella syndrome. In 2016, it eliminated measles, and in 2017, neonatal tetanus.

Vaccination Week in numbers:

  • At least 20 countries plan to vaccinate more than 2.25 million children and adults against measles (Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Paraguay, St. Maarten, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands and Uruguay).
  • Brazil plans to implement a massive campaign against influenza, targeting a total of 50 million people.
  • Another 11 countries (Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago) will also conduct influenza campaigns targeting various groups with the “southern hemisphere” formulation of the seasonal influenza vaccine, in preparation for the increased circulation of the virus in the coming months.
  • At least 4 countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador) are including the vaccination against Yellow Fever in areas at risk of the disease. 
  • Around 18 countries and territories, including Belize, Bermuda, Barbados, Bonaire, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, St. Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay, plan to vaccinate adolescents against HPV and carry out related promotional and educational activities.
  • This year, 16 countries seek to reach populations in situations of vulnerability, including pregnant and postpartum women, health workers, older adults, indigenous populations, individuals with chronic disease, and prisoners and prison workers, among other occupational risk groups and vulnerable populations.
  • Several countries will focus their efforts on protecting occupational health workers against a range of diseases such as hepatitis B, tetanus and influenza.
  • As part of Brazil’s Month of Vaccination of Indigenous Peoples, a combined effort of the National Vaccination Program and the Department of Indigenous Health, the aim is to update vaccination schedules of approximately 695,782 people in indigenous communities, in addition to administering the annual dose of the influenza vaccine. This effort will require the participation of around 3500 health professionals.

Links

— Vaccination Week in the Americas
— Video with Director’s message for VWA
— Communication materials for VWA