JIS News

Jamaican students destined for universities and other institutions abroad are required to be vaccinated against diseases before being admitted.
Director of Family Health Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, told JIS News that since several types of bacterial meningitis such as meningococcal were found to be common among university students in the United States and the United Kingdom, foreign-bound students would have to satisfy the vaccination requirements of the receiving institutions.
“Some of these countries require another booster at ten to 12 years of age and the private sector here sometimes provides this booster in keeping with the American guidelines. So, if this is the requirement of colleges or countries for immigration purposes, then they [students going overseas] would be required to have those,” Dr. Lewis Bell said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has ceased stamping ‘fully immunised’ in the cards of one year-olds, as the practice has misled parents into thinking that their children do not require further vaccinations. “We have stopped stamping the card because it sent the wrong message to parents that after age one, the child didn’t need anymore vaccines,” she said, noting that booster shots were required at 18 months, and four to six years.
“Now, the number of doses that one gets when they have completed the booster schedule up to six years of age is adequate to protect you basically for life except when the individual may be exposed to a greater extent to certain conditions such as tetanus,” Dr. Lewis-Bell added.
Farmers working in animal husbandry represent a demography that might be exposed to tetanus. “They are more prone to tetanus because this is a germ that lives in the soil,” she explained, “so for those persons, we suggest that every ten years, they get another booster of the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.”
The Health Ministry’s immunisation programme is targeted at children under two years of age to ensure their protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Dr. Lewis Bell said that the Ministry administered vaccines to protect children against diseases such as polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, meningitis as statistics revealed that 90 per cent occurrence of these diseases were found in children not yet two years old. “That is why we focus on children . because they are the ones most at risk,” she emphasised.
When administered the necessary vaccines at an early age, by the time adulthood is ushered in, “they may have been exposed to these diseases before and their natural immunity would have given them some protection,” she pointed out.
The national immunisation programme was introduced in the late 1970’s, and under the expanded programme two decades later, the government purchases vaccines for the targeted cohort of children.