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First Vaccination Week in the Americas Counts Successes

Washington, DC, June 6, 2003 (PAHO)—As part of the first Vaccination Week in the Americas, ministers of health and first ladies joined health workers and community leaders at 10 border areas across the region to vaccinate hard-to-reach children. Their efforts demonstrate that cooperation between bordering countries is essential for promoting health equity in the Americas.

 Niños en Paraguay

The unprecedented effort, launched Sunday and continuing throughout the week, involves 16 countries from South and Central America, plus Mexico, Jamaica and the Bahamas – 19 countries in all. Plans are already under way for an effort to include the whole of the Western Hemisphere in April 2004.

The goal of the Vaccination Week in the Americas is to reach those children who have never been vaccinated or who have not completed their series of vaccines. The campaign seeks to vaccinate some 16 million children against major diseases, plus 2.7 million women of childbearing age against tetanus. In some areas campaign workers are going house to house, and in remote areas they are traveling by boat. Others are working from temporary health posts to reach marginal urban populations.

En Cucuta, on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, Colombia’s minister of social protection, Diego Palacio Betancourt, and the governor of the department of Santander del Norte participated in the June 1 launch of the campaign, along with representatives of Venezuela’s Tachira State health department.

 Niños en Paraguay
In some parts of Paraguay, vaccination was done door to door.

A similar group traveled to the towns of Bolpebra, Iñaparí y Asís on the border of Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil for launching ceremonies that took place in 115-degree heat and marked the first time a minister of state had ever traveled to any of these towns.

On the Ecuador-Peru border, in the towns of Huaquillas y Aguas Verdes, first ladies Ximena Bohórquez y Eliane Karp de Toledo joined their respective ministers of Health to launch the campaign. Similar events were held along the borders of Argentina and Bolivia, Chile and Bolivia, and Argentina and Paraguay, among others.

The historic initiative is aimed at consolidating the interruption of measles transmission in the region (no cases have been reported in the last six months), maintaining polio eradication, and protecting the region’s children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) are following the campaign’s progress in the field, and a team from PAHO’s Public Information area is filming and documenting the effort alongside participating health workers.

Vaccination, which is provided free of charge, continues to be a highly cost-effective public health tool for preventing disease. Experts say the eventual goal is to achieve 95 percent vaccination coverage throughout the region.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest ongoing health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve health and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

For more information, video material, or photographs please contact: Daniel Epstein, Office of Public Information, (202) 974-3459, e-mail:

Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
Tel.: +1 (202) 974-3000 Fax: +1 (202) 974-3663

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