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Vaccination Week in
the Americas 2004
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Vaccination Week in the Americas Targets 40 Million People

Washington, DC, March 16, 2004 (PAHO)—Health workers in every country in the Western Hemisphere will target millions of children, many in isolated areas, during a historic Vaccination Week in the Americas, starting April 24.

Coordinated by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the weeklong events, April 24-30, will focus on the children normally left behind, those living in rural border regions, and the most vulnerable groups, including women and the elderly. While most of the countries will vaccinate against measles, polio, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, others will seek to prevent influenza and neonatal tetanus.

According to preliminary plans, the countries of South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean will vaccinate some 40 million people, mostly children. The United States and Canada will participate by promoting the benefits of immunization, especially among children. The dates coincide with National Infant Immunization Week, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Canada routinely holds National Immunization Awareness Week.

Dr. Mirta Roses, PAHO director, noted: "This is a regionwide, collaborative activity, involving all our partners, that cuts across national borders. It's not just one or two countries, all the countries are participating."

Last year, an initiative that began in the Andean region of South America to stage a joint immunization week grew to include 19 countries. Some 15 million received vaccinations. Last September, at the annual meeting of health authorities at PAHO, all the health ministers agreed to take part in this year's effort.

"We have every reason to believe that all the countries in the Americas are highly committed to making this year's vaccination week a tremendous success," said Dr. Jon Andrus, chief of the Immunization Unit at PAHO. "Some countries are using this opportunity to do some very creative health interventions. Haiti is planning to use the opportunity to vaccinate vulnerable groups in order to promote stability and peace. The Dominican Republic is planning to introduce rubella vaccine, where previously this vaccine was not routinely used in the national program. Brazil is planning to use the campaign to target the elderly population for influenza vaccination. Many more such examples of initiative and commitment are out there."

The countries plan to vaccinate some 15.5 million children under 5 years of age and about 1.5 million women of childbearing age, many of whom - like the children - have never before been vaccinated. In addition to the children and women of childbearing age, the countries also are targeting 10.6 million adults, 10.13 million people over age 60, and 1.7 million people in other "risk groups."

This year, in addition to the slogan, "Vaccination: An Act of Love," many of the countries adopted the CDC theme of "Love them, Protect them, Immunize them."

Among the keys to last year's vaccination successes were social communication campaigns set up in each of the countries. PAHO sent out radio and television spots, posters, and information to promote the effort. This year, radio spots have been produced in indigenous languages and dialects for several countries, and materials will be targeted to specific areas.

The objectives of this year's vaccination week are to promote equity and improve the access to vaccination, protect groups at risk of epidemics, promote communication and cooperation among nations, and promote Pan Americanism, according to Andrus.

The goals are:

  • To reach children under 5 years of age and women of childbearing age never before vaccinated, or who did not receive all doses.
  • To develop plans for solidifying vaccination efforts after the Vaccination Week in the Americas.
  • To preserve the eradication of measles in the Region.
  • To continue the eradication of rubella (or German measles) and Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
  • To strengthen epidemiological monitoring of vaccine preventable diseases.

In addition to PAHO, this year's vaccination campaign is also supported by MERCOSUR (South American Common Market), the Andean Health Organization and the Central American Health Sector (RESSCAD), which includes Belize and the Dominican Republic. Other partners are the Spanish government, UNICEF, the Red Cross, USAID, CDC, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Foundation, and several service clubs such as Rotary International and Kiwanis.

The United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, which covers the 2,000 miles from San Diego-Tijuana on the Pacific to Brownsville-Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico, is also joining the Vaccination Week in the Americas. The Commission and PAHO's office in El Paso, Texas, are planning for three rounds of vaccinations, covering children from birth to 4 years of age in seven sister cities along the border.

According to the latest PAHO figures, those to be targeted during the Vaccination Week in the Americas include:

  • English-speaking Caribbean: 10,536,500 children under 5 years of age.
  • Southern Cone of South America and Brazil: 707,505 children under 5 years of age; 1,194,006 adults; 10,134,668 people over 60 years of age; 134,000 women of childbearing age; 428,000 persons in other risk groups.
  • The Andean Region: 452,266 children under 5 years of age; 6,183,477 adults; 883,333 women of childbearing age; 1,280,047 people in other risk groups.
  • Central America and the "Latino" Caribbean: 3,879,942 children under 5 years of age; 3,100,000 adults; 450,000 women of childbearing age.
  • Total: 15,578,213 children under 5 years of age; 10,612,151 adults; 10,134,668 people over 60 years of age; 1,467,333 women of childbearing age; 1,708,047 people in other risk groups.

PAHO's 35 countries were the first to eradicate smallpox in 1973 and polio in 1991, and are now aiming at measles and rubella.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO Member States today include all 35 countries in the Americas. France, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are Participating States. Portugal and Spain are Observer States, and Puerto Rico is an Associate Member.

For more information:
Vaccines: Preventing Disease and Protecting Health

For more information, video material, or photographs please contact: Bryna Brennan, Area of Public Information, (202) 974-3457, 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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