Vaccination Week in the Americas Set to Start April 23
Washington, D.C., February 11, 2005 (PAHO)—Health workers in every country in the Western Hemisphere are preparing strategies, purchasing vaccines, and coordinating logistics for the largest immunization drive in the Americas, targeting millions of children for Vaccination Week in the Americas, starting April 23.
Coordinated by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the weeklong events, April 23-30, will focus on the children normally left behind, those living in rural border regions, indigenous people and vulnerable groups, including women of childbearing age and the elderly. Most of the countries are vaccinating children against measles, polio, rubella, and other diseases. Many are vaccinating women of childbearing age. And some countries are focusing on reaching their indigenous people, those in border areas, and others who may have been left behind.
Dr. Mirta Roses, PAHO director, said "Vaccination week is an important regional activity that involves all our countries and partners. All the countries are participating in the effort to prevent disease and improve the health of their populations."
Last year the countries of South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean vaccinated 43.7 million people, mostly children. The United States and Canada participated by promoting the benefits of immunization, especially among children.
In the United States, National Infant Immunization Week, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is held as part of Vaccination Week, and in Canada National Immunization Awareness Week is observed.
The initiative that began in the Andean region of South America two years ago with a joint immunization week grew to include 19 countries and 15 million persons received vaccinations. All the health ministers of the Americas then endorsed the initiative and agreed to join it.
The slogan, "Vaccination: An Act of Love," and the CDC-developed theme of "Love them, Protect them, Immunize them" were used together and will be the slogan for 2005.
Social communication campaigns in each of the countries included radio and television spots, posters, and information to promote the effort, including radio spots in indigenous languages and dialects for several countries.
The United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, which covers the 2,000 miles from San Diego and Tijuana on the Pacific to Brownsville and Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico, is also planning major efforts for Vaccination Week in the Americas.
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.