With the government spending 5 percent of its annual health budget on providing free vaccines to Dominicans, the Ministry of Health is advising the general public against complacency in taking vaccinations.
This advice has come as Dominica joined its counterparts in the region in observing vaccination week of the Americas this week, under the theme: “Vaccination: A shared Responsibility”.
Senior Community Health and Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunization in Dominica, Nurse Florestine Antoine Lewis, in an exclusive interview with the Government Information Service on Friday said while Dominica’s rate of immunization is high, it is important that nationals continue to be vaccinated to ensure that they are protected against vaccine preventable diseases.
“Even if our immunization coverage remains high, 95 percent and above for most of the vaccines, there are still some children whose parents have refused getting then vaccinated,” she said
Nurse Lewis said back in 2012, there were two antigens for which vaccines were provided, and there was less than 95 percent coverage.
“The MMR was 94% and the DPT was 81%, so we do not want to become complacent as far as vaccines are concerned. We want to maintain our immunization coverage at a high level so that we prevent those diseases from coming into our island,” she said.
The community health nurse warns that when vaccine coverage is not maintained at high levels, previously controlled diseases can make a dramatic comeback.
Nurse Lewis said children under the age of five who are not vaccinated are at the highest risk.
“Children, who are under the age five, if not vaccinated, will develop to be susceptible who are people who will be exposed to viruses. For example, the Pertussis (whooping cough), if our community is not effectively protected against Pertussis then persons who are not immunized can come down with the disease,” Lewis explained.
Nurse Lewis told GIS news that the Ministry of Health is working to ensure that people who have not kept up to date with their vaccinations are contacted as part of a wider vaccine sensitization drive.
“At our clinics we have immunization corners, the nurses conduct sessions with community members on vaccines. We are also encouraging persons who have defaulted to visit the health centre to be vaccinated,” the health official pointed out.
She continued, “The nurses have gone back and looked at their registers because everyone who has been vaccinated is entered into a register and they have picked out those persons who have defaulted and are going to them, be it at their homes or wherever they can be found to ensure that they are vaccinated”.
Some of the vaccines administered in Dominica include the BCG vaccine which protects against Tuberculosis, the DPT vaccine which protects against Pertussis, the polio vaccine and the MMR Vaccine.