PAHO/WHO Urges Caribbean Residents to get their Vaccines up-to-date for Vaccination Week of the Americas 2014
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization’s Office for Caribbean Program Coordination (PAHO/WHO CPC) is urging Caribbean residents to continue to prevent death, illness and disability in the region by ensuring that they are appropriately vaccinated. This advice has been issued on the approach of the 12th Vaccination Week in the Americas, which takes place from April 28 to May 3, 2014, and to coincide with World Immunization Week, running from April 24 to April 30, 2014.
While acknowledging that the Caribbean has been quite successful in reducing the levels of vaccine preventable death and diseases over the past two decades, Dr Ernest Pate, PAHO/WHO Caribbean Programme Coordinator, cautions that such gains can be eroded if significant numbers of individuals fail to vaccinate themselves or their children.Dr Pate stressed that although the majority parents now-a-days have had limited or no opportunity to witness the effects of vaccine preventable diseases, they still need to be aware of the potential danger.
The World Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccination currently averts about 2 to 3 million deaths each year on a global scale. However, an estimated 22.6 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines and many adults also remain at risk. In the Caribbean, the approximately 120, 000 children born each year could be susceptible to vaccine preventable diseases if not adequately protected. Experience has demonstrated that vaccine-preventable diseases can re-emerge among unvaccinated groups if complacency sets in or people fail to adhere to established schedules.
Immunization prevents illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, tetanus and rubella which are traditionally included in childhood immunization schedules. In addition, the seasonal influenza vaccine is provided in most countries on an annual basis, primarily targeting persons who are at a greater than average risk of exposure to the disease or its complications. These include health workers, pregnant women, and the elderly, as well as institutionalized and chronically ill persons. Furthermore, among the newer additions to some regional vaccination programmes is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine which mainly targets young adolescent females to offer protection from cervical cancer.
During Vaccination Week of the Americas, members of national vaccination teams will be hosting a series of events under the slogan: “Vaccination: Your best shot.” Activities for the week will include community outreach campaigns at worksites and “walk-in” immunization days at health clinics, to provide members of the public with the extra convenience of obtaining vaccinations without having to make appointments on the specified occasion. Persons planning international travel for mass gathering events, including the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Brazil are advised to check with national immunization authorities to determine possible vaccine update requirements.
Founded in 1902, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the world’s oldest international public health agency and the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO)