JIS News

In keeping with its thrust to protect the nation’s children, the Ministry of Health is urging all parents to ensure that their children are adequately vaccinated for their age.

Director of Family Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Lewis- Bell, told JIS News that children must be adequately vaccinated, as immunization guarantees their protection against vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as diphtheria and small pox.

“Despite the many myths and fears surrounding vaccinations, medical evidence indicates that immunizations still continue to save many lives worldwide,” she said.

“Immunization is very important to ensure that children are healthy and well, and develop their full potential,” Dr. Bell added, noting that vaccines are like any other drug that may come with mild side-effects that last for a short-time; however the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the concerns that people may have regarding the safety of vaccines.

She noted that several Jamaicans have been afforded a ‘disease-free’ childhood as a result of the implementation of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in September 1977.

“Vaccinations are great in terms of protection from ill health and from death, and there are several benefits that the individual, the family and the country can derive, especially monetary savings, as a result of the programme,” Dr. Bell informed, pointing out that immunisation is the most cost-effective interventions in public health.

She added that because of the success of immunization, Jamaica and the region of the Americas has eliminated polio, measles, rubella (German measles), and congenital rubella syndrome. She reported that the last case of polio was identified in 1982; the last case of locally transmitted measles in 1991; diphtheria in 1995; rubella in 2000, and the last case of newborn tetanus in 2001.

Despite the successes, it is mandatory that children are properly immunized as, with an increase in air travel and Jamaica’s dependence on tourism, many of the diseases that have not been completely eradicated from the world could return to the island.

Importantly, the Ministry, through its National Immunization Programme, will continue to ensure that the required policy framework, which was drafted under the Public Health Act of 1974, is in place to protect thelives of the nation’s children.

The regulations stipulate that it is the duty of every parent to have his or her child immunized, and it also states that all children under seven years must beadequately vaccinatedbefore they are permitted entry to school.

Dr. Lewis-Bell emphasized that children must therefore be vaccinated against the following preventable diseases: small pox, pertussis, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis.