Health care workers will be visiting schools across the island to administer vaccines, especially Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) shots, to those children , who are not adequately immunised, during Vaccination Week from April 21 to 28.
The week is being observed by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) under the theme: ‘For you, for me, for everyone; get vaccinated’. It forms part of the Ministry’s thrust to increase MMR coverage among children from one to 10 years old.
Speaking at a JIS Think Tank held on April 17, Director of Family Health Services in the Ministry, Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, said that under the Public Health Act, all children are to be adequately vaccinated for entry to school, including daycare facilities and nurseries.
She warned that persons, who fail to operate in accordance with the law, will be taken before the courts. “As a country, we take immunisation and the protection of our children very seriously,” she stated.
She noted that the national immunisation programme has proven to be one of the most cost-effective interventions in health, leading to a reduction in infant mortality and epidemiological transition of diseases.
Jamaica, she said, was able to successfully eliminate a number of the vaccine-preventable diseases, including poliomyelitis in 1982; measles in 1991; rubella in 2000; while the last case of congenital rubella syndrome was in 1998.
Dr. Lewis Bell informed that during Vaccination Week, the Ministry will be utilising a wide variety of communication strategies in an effort to increase public awareness about the importance of immunisations in protecting lives, while highlighting the success of the national programme.
Country Representative for PAHO, Margareta Skolds, in her remarks, said this year marks the 10th anniversary of the celebration of Vaccination Week in the Americas.
She said one of the main goals of the week of activities is to ensure that everyone gains access to vaccination that would protect them from developing some of the most debilitating diseases known to mankind.
“Vaccination,” she said, “is important (because with) such a small intervention, we can protect thousands and millions of people from diseases that can be debilitating and diseases that can be fatal.”
Activities for Vaccination Week will get underway with a national church service on Sunday, April 22, at the Swallowfield Chapel in Kingston, beginning at 10:45 a.m. The official launch will be held at the Medallion Hall Hotel on Tuesday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m.;
Vaccination Week in the Americas and the subsequent launch of World Immunization Week represents a unified commitment from countries worldwide to implement programmes that safeguard the wellbeing of their citizens.
By Toni-Ann Russell, JIS Reporter