JIS News

With only a few days before the start of the new school year, Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, is urging schools, including day care centres and early childhood institutions, not to admit children who are insufficiently immunized.
In a JIS Interview, Dr. Campbell-Forrester stressed that adequate immunization is necessary to ensure the protection of children and, by extension, the population from preventable illnesses.
She noted that all children, especially those under the age of seven, should be adequately immunized before entry to school and should ideally be immunized within the first year of birth or soon after, with boosters given at intervals.
“Persons authorized to admit pupils to any school should not permit a child to continue attending any such school, unless a certificate of immunization issued by the Health Department or the child’s medical doctor is produced,” she told JIS News.
She explained that the only persons who should be exempted would be those with a certificate of medical contra-indications issued by the Ministry of Health, which shows that they are unfit for immunization.
“Viruses are all around, so we are exposed. But, because the vaccination has been done the body will remember, when exposed to these germs, that it came in contact with it before, and create an antibody response, so that the child will not become ill,” she explained.
Jamaica has maintained relatively high vaccination coverage throughout the years, averaging 83 per cent up to 2008. Dr. Forrester added that there have not been any disease outbreaks in a number of years, with the last case of poliomyelitis being seen in 1982.
“We really don’t want to go back there, as it is extremely expensive to manage outbreaks, and the consequences of disability, which is long term for children, and death are areas that we have to consider,” she noted.
“It is really a serious offence if persons fail to comply,” she pointed out.
Parents, teachers and any person who contravenes, or fails to comply with any of the provisions of the Immunization regulations shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, under summary conviction in the Resident Magistrate’s Court to a fine or, in default of payment, to a term not exceeding 30 days.

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