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Saved by the vaccine

Minister Donville Inniss (left) at the PAHO meeting. Inset, Inniss shares a moment with Director Emeritus, Dr. Mirta Roses (centre) and Director Emeritus, Sir George Alleyne.

Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, says that Vaccination Week in the Americas has inspired similar initiatives in every other WHO region and helped consolidate the region’s many immunisation achievements.

However, he noted, health leaders could not rest on their laurels.

He was, at the time, speaking at the launch of a coffee table book entitled: Vaccination: An Act of Love – 10 years of Vaccination Week in the Americas, at the 28th Pan American Sanitary Conference, being held this week at PAHO headquarters in Washington D.C.

Inniss noted that immunisation was recognised as one of the most cost effective health interventions in the world today, protecting persons from many infectious diseases.

“We live in a global village where diseases know no boundaries. Therefore, each nation must play its part in this global endeavour to maintain a robust and up-to-date immunisation programme, which seeks to capture every vulnerable individual; thus ensuring that vaccine preventable diseases are limited, if not eliminated. The entire region of the Americas has made many strides in the fight against vaccine preventable diseases. It can be argued that improved quality of immunisation services, high coverage, the introduction of new vaccines and monitoring and surveillance programmes, played a major role in keeping our countries protected. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. Every child, every adult must be vaccinated as part of their basic human rights. The battle must go on,” Minister Inniss emphasised.

According to the PAHO website, Director Emeritus, Sir George Alleyne, who was also present for the presentation ceremony, said that Vaccination Week in the Americas had become the largest multinational health initiative in the Western Hemisphere and was instrumental in putting immunisation on the political agenda. This new book, he opined, would highlight those activities and health workers throughout the region who have made the 10-year-old initiative possible.

“The work is not finished,” Sir George said, while calling on ministers of health “to ensure that the tree that was planted in 2003 keeps growing” every year. “Let us never allow the world to forget this celebration, which is an act of love. Vaccination is an act of love,” he declared.

More than 365 million people of all ages have been vaccinated over the past decade in campaigns carried out as part of Vaccination Week in the Americas, a model for the other regions of the WHO. During the World Health Assembly in May 2011, the Minister of Health of El Salvador invited countries to formalise a World Immunisation Week through a World Health Assembly Resolution in 2012.

At the October 2011 meeting of the Directing Council of PAHO, this call was also made to the Executive Board Members of the WHA, of which Barbados is a member. Barbados, through the office of the Chief Medical Officer, pushed this resolution to be submitted for consideration for the January 2012 Meeting of the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly. Countries in the Americas were asked to support and be co-sponsors of the Resolution and as a result, it was backed by the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Suriname and the United States of America, at its tabling at the Executive Board meeting in January this year. The resolution was successful both at the Executive Board and World Health Assembly in May and this year the first World Immunisation Week was recognised from April 21-28, under the slogan Protect your world, get vaccinated. (BGIS)

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