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Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, has said that the theme of this year’s Vaccination Week – ‘Reaching Everyone’- supports the Government’s position of achieving universal immunization coverage, inclusive of the adult population.
“This year’s focus resonates with the Government. While it is well established that our priority has been on our children, we must support the transition from child to family immunization,” he said.
Vaccination Week in the Americas is spearheaded by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO). The week began on April 24 and will end today (May 1).
“The achievement of universal coverage is largely dependent on our ability to develop a strong primary health care system with good infrastructure, adequate staffing and systems that work. A strong primary health care system will help Jamaica to achieve equity and access to immunization and keep the country free of vaccine preventable diseases. This will require effective alliance with schools and early childhood centres, private physicians, focused and sustained public education strategies and utilising every opportunity to immunize both our child and adult populations,” the Minister said.
He pointed out that while the country has maintained relatively high vaccination coverage for many years since 1985, it has experienced some slippage for over a decade with coverage averaging 83 per cent, with the exception of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR). “Last year, we achieved 90 per cent coverage with MMR in the high eighties, an outstanding achievement given the environment of declining budgets,” he said.
The Minister said that the achievement of 90 per cent coverage with MMR could not have been possible without support from PAHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The PAHO/WHO Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Ernest Pate, said that his organisation has been in support of vaccinations in the Americas since 2003.
“One of the reasons why we started having a vaccination week, was because we were having outbreaks of measles in countries in this hemisphere and the reason we were having these was that immunization in the rural areas was slow,” he said.
He pointed out that since 2003, over 280 million people living in rural areas in the Americas have been immunized.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sheila Campbell-Forrester, said that the aim is to achieve 100 per cent immunization coverage and hence the move to expand coverage to families, inclusive of fishermen and women.
“We at 90 per cent immunization coverage for 2009 and we want to achieve one hundred per cent. All our children must be fully immunized and we are not even stopping there, we are now expanding to the family and saying that all our family members must also be immunized,” she emphasised.
Fisher folk of Rocky Point Fishing Beach were targeted for the programme, as it is the second largest fishing beach in Jamaica.
Vaccination Week in the Americas has been observed annually since 2003 and is organised each year to bring increased awareness to the importance of being vaccinated as well as an opportunity to further the reach of vaccination for specific groups, while continuing the routine programme for children.