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JIS News

Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry-Wilson is imploring parents to ensure that their children are immunized in order for them to be admitted into schools come September.
In an interview with JIS News, Minister Henry-Wilson said that there would be no compromise on the issue of immunization as it was a legal requirement for entry into all schools.
“An immunization certificate is required by law”, she pointed out, “and there is no getting around this as it is a public health requirement; we are dealing with populations of children and we have to ensure that we protect the largest number”.
The Minister said that many parents failed to facilitate the immunization of their children, based on their personal or religious beliefs, and that while the Ministry respected their views, “it could not place the rest of the population at risk by admitting children who are not ‘adequately’ or ‘fully’ immunized into schools”.
“While we respect people’s religious and other beliefs, we also have to legislate in the interest of the majority and the interest of the majority says that the child has to be immunized,” she asserted.
Children who receive their vaccines at the various stages of their development are considered to be ‘adequately’ immunized, and are only considered ‘fully’ immunized when all vaccines have been given by age six. The Minister also warned principals, as well as the operators of basic schools, to refrain from admitting children who have not been immunized, as failure to comply would result in their prosecution, which could lead to imprisonment.
Health care workers, parents and other care-givers are also liable for prosecution if they fail to undertake or facilitate the immunization of a child.
Programme Development Officer in Family Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Yvonne Munroe-Whitmore, stressed that it was critical for parents to immunize their children, as it assisted in preventing the outbreak of communicable diseases, as well as ‘natural’ illnesses, such as deafness, mental retardation, meningitis and paralysis.
“The Ministry of Health is imploring parents to ensure that children, prior to entry into basic schools, are adequately immunized, while children upon entry into primary schools must be fully immunized,” she said.
She also pointed out that immunization protected the health of children. “There are some children who are not at the age at which they would receive a particular vaccine, for example the MMR vaccine, which is given at age one and if a child below this age is exposed to any of these illnesses (mumps, measles and rubella) then that child could become infected,” she said.
As such, she reiterated that it was important for parents to ensure that their children are immunized in order to reduce the risk of the spread of diseases among children who are not protected against certain viruses and infections.
Other “at risk” groups of children include, those who are not able to receive a vaccine based on medical reasons and those who receive a vaccine but fail to develop immunity against the particular germ or virus that causes diseases.
Dr. Munroe-Whitmore emphasised that parents should ensure that their children are immunized at various stages during the early childhood years, in order to prevent the development of diseases that could affect them at those points.
Children, she informed, should be vaccinated at birth, at six weeks old and at three, six, 12 and 18 months. All children should receive their last sets of vaccines or ‘booster shots’ between age four and six years.
Noting that some parents might not recognize the importance of immunization, as several diseases are currently not found in Jamaica, she said that as a tourist destination, it was critical to protect the health of the population.
“There are many diseases which, even though they may not be here, are still prevalent in many countries of the world.and international travel makes Jamaica and Jamaicans at increased risk of infectious diseases,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, Dr. Munroe-Whitmore revealed that the immunization programme for this year was “on target”, as more than 90 per cent of the children under the age of one have so far been immunized.