Preventing Disease and Protecting Health
'Most Vulnerable' Groups Will Benefit from Vaccination Week in the Americas
Washington, DC, April 22, 2004 (PAHO)—Vaccination Week in the Americas, a hemispheric initiative that begins this Saturday, will reach out to the most vulnerable population groups in the Western Hemisphere: those in border areas and indigenous communities, which often lack access to health services. Coordinated by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the week-long initiative is expected to vaccinate 40 million people.
"In general, border areas are the most vulnerable because people travel through them from different places. In the United States and Mexico there will be special efforts to target populated areas of border states to reach all those who have not been immunized before," said Dr. Mirta Roses, director of PAHO.
Vaccination Week in the Americas, from April 24 to 30, is an unprecedented effort by 35 countries to vaccinate those who have never been vaccinated and those who have not completed their vaccine series, including children, older adults and women of childbearing age.
"This is the first time that the United States and Canada have joined together in this initiative, with information campaigns linking Vaccination Week in the Americas with the United States’ National Immunization Week," said Alba María Ropero, a PAHO epidemiologist and specialist in vaccines.
Dr. Mauricio Landaverde, another PAHO epidemiologist, stressed that "it is very important that Latinos who live in the United States—whether documented or not— know that they can approach health clinics and get vaccines without anyone asking them questions on their migratory status."
Roses pointed out that "the information campaigns in the United States are essential for recent immigrants, who often don't know how the health system operates and may not understand their rights."
Roses announced that she will travel to Haiti to launch the initiative in that country from Port-au-Prince on Saturday. "This is an excellent opportunity to call attention to the needs of this country. It is an enormous gesture by Haiti—despite its many difficulties—to join in this effort to help improve its unfavorable health indicators."
In addition to PAHO, other supporters of this year's Vaccination Week in the Americas include MERCOSUR (Southern Cone Common Market), the Andean Health Organization (ORAS), and the Central American and Dominican Republic Health Sector (RESSCAD).
Other partners are UNICEF, the Red Cross, USAID, the CDC, the Canadian Agency for International Development (CIDA), the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Foundation, and service institutions including Rotary International and Kiwanis.
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 works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of people of the Americas. It also 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.