Health Minister, Dr. Irving McIntyre, has used the occasion of the observance of Vaccination Week in the Americas and World Immunization Week to remind the public of the importance of vaccination.
From 23 to 30 April 2022, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), together with the countries and territories of the Region of the Americas and its partners, are celebrating the 20th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) and the 11th World Immunization Week (WIW) under the call to action “Are you fully vaccinated? Get all your shots.”
This year’s campaign is set to close the immunization gap and it is hoped that more than 130 million people around the region of the Americas will celebrate and recognize the impact and importance of immunization as a public good to protect people and to keep them healthy.
“Vaccines have contributed significantly to reduce the child mortality rate while saving millions of other lives,” Dr. McIntyre said while delivering an address at the launch of Vaccination Week. “Vaccination is the most important action we can take to protect ourselves, our children and our family members against preventable diseases.”
He said research has shown that vaccines prevent approximately 3 million deaths worldwide every year.
“As a government, we are also aware that the economic and social conditions under which one lives will help determine one’s health and therefore, we have a public health commitment to our people to protect them from vaccine preventable disease,” the health minister stated.
He lauded the success of the immunization provided in the maternal and child health program of Dominica’s primary health system, through the Expanded Program of Immunization known as the EPI. Dr. McIntyre added that the EPI which is one of the flagships of the health programs in Dominica and offers vaccines free of charge at the primary healthcare level..
According to the minister, the government of Dominica, through the ministry of health, has been implementing several strategies to support the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) efforts.
“The introduction of the electronic immunization registry which will allow us to have updated the information for decision-making as well as to facilitate monitoring coverage and defaulters, the strengthening of our community outreach communities including the establishment of vaccine animators” Dr McIntyre noted.
He said Dominica will take advantage of vaccination week in the Americas to scale up the country’s efforts.
Meanwhile, Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne said it has been 15 months since Covid-19 vaccines first became available and there is still a long way to go to ensure that all populations at risk receive the dosage that they need for protection.
“This is especially critical for the elderly, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women, persons living in situations of vulnerability and of course the healthcare workers,” she said.
Dr. Etienne explained that even before Covid-19 brought the world into a sudden halt, the coverage for routine vaccines in the Americas had fallen below optimal level and the past 2 years have rolled back nearly 3 decades of progress on polio and measles vaccination and left the region at risk of reintroduction.
She said this must be a concern for every government, for every healthcare worker and every family in the region as today, we are again at the same vaccination coverage levels that were reported in 1994 and these diseases still pose a serious threat to our children, families and communities.
“In 2020, 2.7 million children in our region missed the essential vaccines needed to keep them healthy and to support them in reaching their fullest potential. If this situation continues we will pay an extremely high price in loss of life, increased disabilities and economic and enormous financial cost,” The PAHO Chief warned.
“For example,” she said, “If we had to collectively control and recover from an outbreak of polio, the impact would be devastating on individuals and member-states alike, and it can last a long time because the disabilities that would be caused by polio will be present with us for many years to come.”
Dr. Etienne reminded everyone that they should never let their guards down on such an essential health service such as immunization.