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Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, has said that while Jamaica has achieved favourable results in relation to its rate of infant and child immunisation, more emphasis should be placed on immunising children during the first year of life.
Dr. Campbell-Forrester, who was delivering the opening address at the National Conference on Immunisation held recently at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, cited a recent community-based study, which found that “we are not doing so well in immunising our children in the first year of life”.
“We catch up somewhat by the second year but we need to ensure that we cover all our children,” she stated.
Identifying the factors for the shortfall in first year immunisation, the CMO said that these include difficulties experienced by community health aides in community participation, planning, and data management.
As part of the solution, she suggested that the community health aides form closer partnerships within communities, whereby they seek to better know families and ascertain how many persons were immunised, and reach out to those who were not, by bringing the service to them.
“Outreach activities are very important [as are] community interventions where the aides work along with the community,” the CMO noted.
She further encouraged the community health aides “to continue to develop their skills and competencies.and look at how we can work across primary and secondary care because this is important as many of our babies are leaving hospitals still not immunised. It is now time to engage our secondary staff to do some of the immunisation.”
Immunisation averts approximately 174,000 child deaths per year globally, and in Jamaica, there have been no associated morbidity or mortality associated with childhood vaccine-preventable diseases since 2001. Jamaica in fact, has an impressive record in eradicating vaccine-preventable disease such as measles, congenital rubella and polio. The country has had no cases of polio since 1982, and similarly, none for measles or congenital rubella, since 1991 and 1998, respectively.
The conference, an all-day event, which comprised several presentation sessions, was an initiative of the Family Health Unit in the Ministry of Health and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).