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JIS News

Acting Head, Family Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Yvonne Munroe, is urging school administrators not to accept students who do not meet the prescribed immunization requirements for the new school term.
Instead, Dr. Munroe is requesting that these students be sent to the relevant health centres to be vaccinated before admission, except in extenuating circumstances.
“The principals should not admit them; they need to refer them to the health centre, so they can be seen and given the necessary vaccine,” she told JIS News.
Citing the immunization law, Dr. Munroe cautioned Principals to be cognisant of the corresponding penalties that apply to those who are non-compliant. The Act states that all children under the age of seven should be fully immunized before entry into schools. This, Dr. Munroe noted, included nurseries, day-care centres and basic schools, not just primary schools.
Dr. Munroe made a plea to principals to be vigilant in their efforts, warning that, “if they accept these children, they will be liable for prosecution in the Resident Magistrate’s Court, for a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 days.”
“This $500 fine is per child, so if you have 10 students in your school who are not fully immunized, that is $5,000,” she added.
Dr. Munroe said the schools are aware of the immunization schedule, as the Ministry of Health has conducted training with a number of early childhood teachers, to make them aware of the schedule. She informed that they should therefore check each child’s immunization card, and take the requisite measures.
She advised parents to draw on the services offered by Government health facilities, particularly the health centres, where the vaccines can be accessed at no cost.
“If they go to their private doctors or paediatricians, they will have to pay for the vaccine, but if they go to the health centres, they don’t have to pay,” she explained.
Dr. Munroe is also appealing to parents who are uncertain of their children’s immunization status, to go with them to the health centre, with the immunization card, so that a Health Care Nurse can determine their immunization status. For parents with no record of the children’s immunization status, she is recommending that they visit the centre where the child was immunized, as a record of his or her immunization status should be kept there.
Minister of Health and Environment, Rudyard Spencer, in his Sectoral Debate presentation on June 3, also implored principals to refrain from accepting children who were not adequately vaccinated. He asked that school principals contact the nearest Public Health Department, with a list of the names of those students who did not present their immunization cards to the institution.
“We will use the law governing immunization to prosecute persons who prevent children from being vaccinated, if necessary,” the Minister said.
“If we want to keep Jamaica free of measles, polio, rubella and other vaccine preventable diseases, we must get serious and implement the strategies, which we know will work,” Mr. Spencer emphasised.
In keeping with back-to-school public education efforts and the overall thrust of the Ministry to increase vaccination coverage, the Kingston and St. Andrew Health Department, will be staging an Immunization Fair at the Mico Practising School from August 21 to 23. The Fair will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the first two days and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 23. The Ministry will also be airing Public Service Announcements in the media, to remind parents to ensure that their children are immunized.