Health Minister Julius Timothy has called on all Haitian nationals living in Dominica to get vaccinated.
This, as Dominica joins the rest of the region in observing the 11th observance of Vaccination Week in the Americas.
“As Minister for Health I also make a plea to all Haitian nationals living in Dominica to visit a health center nearest them to receive the necessary vaccines which will be offered to them free of charge,” Timothy said during a speech to mark the week.
The health minister expressed concern that the level of immunization in Dominica has dropped in 2012 as compared to previous years. “Our immunization coverage in 2012 for two of the antigens given, under the EPI Program to 81 percent and for DPT, 94 percent … compared previously to over 95 percent for all antigens,” he said. “This is a matter of serious concern.”
The Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was established in 1974 through a World Health Assembly resolution to build on the success of the global smallpox eradication programme, and to ensure that all children in all countries benefited from life-saving vaccines.
DPT refers to a class of combination vaccines against three infectious diseases in humans: diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus.
Timothy is now calling on parents to use Vaccination Week to catch up on immunization for their families. “I want to urge parents to use this week to catch up on their immunizations, both for themselves and the little ones,” he said.
He took time out to recognize the staff of the health ministry responsible for the immunization program across the island. “Your efforts are not in vain,” he said. “The ministry of health recognizes your sterling contribution towards ensuring our coverage towards all our children. We cannot be complacent. The high standards set in the past must be maintained, or if anything, made better. I have confidence that you have the skills to make this happen.”
Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), said everyone has a part to play fighting diseases. “Governments, in funding programs; national immunization programs, in organizing activities; health workers, in spreading out to the farthest corners of the Americas to vaccinate people of all ages, not only in cities but also in rural and border zones and other hard-to-reach areas,” she pointed out. “And families and communities, for making sure that everyone gets up to date on their vaccines.” she added.
Vaccination Week of the Americas is being observed this year from April 20 to 27 under the theme “Vaccination, A Shared Responsibility.”
The theme highlights the importance of governments, health workers, communities and families doing their part to support immunization.
This year the PAHO/WHO intiative seeks to protect 44 million people in 44 countries and territories against dangerous diseases.