JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Under the 1986 Public Health Act, all children should be fully vaccinated by their first birthday.
  • All children under the age of seven must be adequately vaccinated for their age prior to entry to school.
  • He was delivering the feature address during opening of the 29th Caribbean Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Managers Meeting.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, is reminding parents of their responsibility in ensuring that their children are immunized with exemptions only allowed for medical reasons.

He said that under the 1986 Public Health Act, all children should be fully vaccinated by their first birthday and receive booster shots thereafter.

All children under the age of seven must be adequately vaccinated for their age prior to entry to school, which includes nursery and daycare facilities. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in prosecution in a court of law, the Minister of Health said.

He was delivering the feature address during opening of the 29th Caribbean Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Managers Meeting at the Jewel Runaway Beach and Golf Resort in St. Ann on November 19.

More than 80 medical representatives from 30 countries are participating in the three-day meeting, which is being held under the theme: ‘Vaccination: A shared responsibility’.

The Minister of Health, in his presentation, argued that immunization is crucially important and necessary, as it protects children under seven years of age from contracting deadly diseases such as poliomyelitis, measles, rubella, diphtheria, rubella and tetanus, among others.

“Immunization is one of the most cost-effective health interventions that we can make and that will give us quick and substantial results. With the resources at our finger tips, I am disappointed that the world is still fighting the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially among children,” Dr. Ferguson lamented.

He said the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008, attributed the deaths of 1.5 million children under five years old, to vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Can you imagine that over a million children may be alive today if they had simply gotten a vaccine?  It is my considered view that vaccine-preventable diseases should not be claiming the lives of so many of the world’s children,” Dr. Ferguson argued.

He noted that the region of the Americas and the Caribbean have been world leaders in disease elimination through vaccination, having been the first in the world to eradicate poliomyelitis, measles and rubella.

Noting the devastating effects that vaccine-preventable diseases have had on Jamaica’s population in the past, including  the 1954 polio outbreak and subsequent outbreaks in 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1982, Dr. Ferguson said that the Government has been “relentless to see that our immunization programme gets the necessary resources”.

“I would never ever like to see a repeat of those terrible periods especially since it is within our power to prevent something like that ever happening again … this is one of the critical areas in health in which we cannot afford to drop the ball,” he stated.

The objectives of the regional meeting are to discuss and set targets for immunization coverage, and the reduction of morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The meeting will also serve to analyze the status of each country’s EPI programme, while identifying areas for further collaboration, strengthening and establishing targets for 2014.