The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis joins the rest of the Member States of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in proudly announcing that the Caribbean and Latin American countries have declared an end to endemic transmission of measles. This declaration was made on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 by PAHO’s International Expert Committee (IEC) during the Organisation’s 55th Directing Council Meeting currently taking place in Washington, DC. This, therefore, means that the Caribbean and Latin America is the first region in the world to have eliminated the disease.
Director of PAHO, Dr Carissa F. Etienne, states that this major milestone has been achieved though “regional solidarity” with strong support for the procurement of vaccines through the Organisation’s revolving fund. Dr Etienne, however, added a word of caution regarding the attainment of this regional public health accomplishment. She noted the need for continued surveillance, and a commitment to the maintenance of an efficient and cost effective vaccination programme to ensure that the region remains free of these diseases.
In its official release, PAHO noted that the elimination of Measles is the culmination of 22 years of consistent mass vaccination against Measles, Mumps and Rubella throughout the Americas. The communiqué also noted that Measles can cause serious health problems including, but not limited to blindness, brain swelling, pneumonia and even death. It is important to note that prior to the start of mass vaccination against Measles in 1980, the disease claimed some 2.6 million deaths each year. Moreover, during the period 1971 to 1979 some 101,800 deaths were due to Measles. However, with vaccination, Member States of PAHO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been able to prevent 3.2 million cases of measles and 16,000 deaths during the period 2000-2020.