St Lucia: The PAHO – Pan American Health Organization, every year around this time, in collaboration with its partners, celebrate Vaccination Week of the Americas – a time to raise the awareness of vaccines and their importance. This year, St Lucia with the Americas celebrates the 20th Vaccination Week of the Americas during the week of April 23 to 30, 2021, under the theme “Are You Fully Vaccinated? #Get all yourshots”.
This year’s Vaccination Week of the Americas (VWA) campaign sets itself to close immunization gaps, wherever or whoever they may be. The goal is to reach those who have not yet received the full benefits of routine immunizations and/or the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.
The specific objectives of this year’s campaign are to: 1) Build trust and confidence in the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines; 2) Strengthen the scope and reach one (1) of the routine vaccination program during and after the COVID-19 pandemic; 3) Accelerate COVID-19 vaccination operations in all countries and territories of the Americas to achieve high national vaccination coverage rate, with focus on all priority groups.
The PAHO recommends increasing and maintaining vaccination coverage of more than 95% of children age five (5) years and under in all countries, prioritizing districts and communities that report low coverage.
The pandemic has taken a weighty toll on health systems – especially the primary healthcare services – as they focus on responding to this emergency. However, we must continue to advocate and maintain focus on routine immunization.
In 2021, many countries re-launched campaigns against measles, rubella, and polio. At least eight (8) countries plan to do follow-up measles campaigns this year, aiming to protect more than sixty-seven (67) million children against these viruses.
St Lucia’s Expanded Immunization Program has yielded numerous successes since its commencement in1977. The program was executed at several Wellness Centres across the length and breadth of the island, as well as among private sector paediatricians. Service is accessed by target groups via various delivery options, namely facility-based vaccination, house-to-house, school-based vaccination as well as community outreach. This service can also be accessed through private sector health facilities.
Some of the successes of the National Expanded Program on Immunization include:
– No reported cases of measles since 1990;
– The last case of rubella appeared in 1996;
– Elimination of Diptheria, Haemophilus Influenza and Polio;
– Immunization coverage for infants
– Hepatitis B Birth dose was introduced in November 2018 towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of Hepatitis B;
– Introduction of Human Papillomavirus vaccine to Grade 6 children as a cancer prevention strategy;
– Introduction of COVID-19 vaccines to reduce the burden of COVID-19 on the population, among other successes
I recognize all our health workers, especially our immunization officers, nurses, nursing assistants, doctors and health aides. Let us get vaccinated against COVID-19 and continue our long tradition of vaccination.