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Minister of Health, Hon Rudyard Spencer, has proposed several measures to increase immunisation of children, and improve infant and maternal mortality figures, which have not changed significantly in over a decade.
At the launch of the Jamaican component of the Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Wednesday (October 21), Mr. Spencer said the country has maintained relatively high vaccination coverage for many years since 1985. The average vaccination coverage is 83 per cent, with the exception of the MMR at 77 per cent.
“Our target remains 100 per cent, notwithstanding, and we therefore need to strategise on reaching those children who are not covered,” he stated.
Among the proposals he has made for increasing the number of children immunised against diseases, were suggestions to make it mandatory for caregivers to produce the immunisation card for all patients up to age 18; offer immunisation services at every point of the health care delivery system; and prosecute people who prevent children from being immunised.
Mr. Spencer also suggested that the Ministry of Health strengthen collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Commission, to ensure that all children admitted to school are properly immunised.
He added that the Ministry could utilise public/private partnerships with healthcare providers, to routinely provide immunisation services, and undertake a public education campaign on the issue.
Turning to the infant mortality rate, Mr. Spencer said that the rate was 25.7 per 1,000 live births in 2007, and that the number of births attended by skilled personnel was 96.1 per cent, based on data collected last year.
“We still have a difficulty relating to shortage in the midwifery cadre, which stands at 47 per cent. This has impacted negatively on our efforts to improve our infant and maternal mortality [rates],” he explained.
He stated that the Ministry covers tuition for training in midwifery and encouraged persons to take advantage of the opportunity.

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