JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Immunization Regulations of 1986 are being enforced
  • The English–speaking Caribbean has eradicated and eliminated many of the diseases though programmes
  • All children should be adequately immunized before entry to school

With only a few days left before the new school year begins, the Ministry of Health is urging schools – including nurseries, day-care and early childhood centres- not to admit children who are inadequately immunized for their age.

In an interview with JIS News, Programme Development Officer of the Family Health Services Unit at the Ministry, Dr. Yvonne Munroe, says the Immunization Regulations of 1986 are being enforced, in an effort to protect other children, and the community at large, from vaccine-preventable diseases.

She points out that the English–speaking Caribbean has eradicated and eliminated many of the diseases though programmes to enforce the proper immunisation practices for children and adults.

“Tourism and international travel can put Jamaica and Jamaicans at increased risk of infectious diseases, which may result in high costs that are associated with ill health,” Dr. Munroe says, while noting that this is preventable and unnecessary.

As a result, countries in the region, through their individual programmes, aim to protect these achievements and the lives of their citizens, as the diseases are still found in many countries.

Jamaica has made several gains since the country first implemented the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) in 1977, with the last case of polio identified in 1982; the last case of locally transmitted measles in 1991; diphtheria in 1995; rubella (German Measles) in 2000 and the last case of newborn tetanus in 2001.

Importantly, Dr. Munroe says that all children, especially those under the age of seven, should be adequately immunized before entry to school and should ideally have been 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 Medical Contra-Indication, Unfitness for Immunization, issued by the Health Department or by the child’s medical doctor, is produced,” she tells JIS News.

Citing the importance of the initiative, Dr. Munroe notes that parents and principals of the educational institutions must be cognisant of the penalties that apply to those who are not found to be in compliance with the Immunization Regulations of 1986, drafted under the Public Health Act of 1974.

She is appealing to principals to be vigilant in their admission efforts and adds that if they accept children who are inadequately immunized, they will become liable for prosecution in a Resident Magistrate’s Court, for a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 30 days.

Explaining further, she says that the $500 fine is charged per child. So, if there are 20 students in the institution who are not adequately immunized, the school would be charged a total of $10,000.00.

Meanwhile, Dr. Munroe is also encouraging parents to utilise the services of the health centres across the island to ensure that their children receive immunization at no cost.

“If they go to their private doctors or paediatricians, they will have to pay for the vaccine, but if they go to the health centres, they don’t have to pay,” she explains.

Dr. Munroe notes also that the Immunisation Regulations stipulate that it is the duty of all parents to ensure that their children are adequately immunised.

She is imploring parents, who are uncertain of their child’s immunisation status, to visit the nearest health centre with the Immunisation Card or the Child Health and Development Passport (CHDP).

“Parents who have no immunization record for their children should visit the health centre or medical doctor where the immunizations were done, as records of his or her immunization would be kept there,” Dr. Munroe advises.

This, she says, is very important as persons can now get the relevant information and/or vaccines to ensure that their child’s record is up-to-date.

Immunisation is one the most cost-effective interventions in health, she adds, highlighting  that children must be vaccinated against preventable diseases, such as small pox, pertussis, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, Haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis.

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