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Vaccination Week in the Americas Launched Today

From the left: PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, Dr. Roberto Tapia Conyer, Vice Secretary of Health of Mexico, and Dr. Richard H. Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General.

Washington, D.C., April 25, 2005 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, and officials from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments today launched Vaccination Week in the Americas, a regional initiative that aims to strengthen vaccination programs and reach more than 44 million children and adults throughout the Americas with immunizations.

"No vaccine should be denied to any child for lack of funds," said Dr. Mirta Roses, director of PAHO, in a news briefing today. "Health promoters, nurses, doctors and volunteers are fanning out today all over the Hemisphere to vaccinate kids and promote the benefits of immunization. Immigrants and migrants are being targeted, health departments are collaborating across borders, and the whole continent is caught up in this tremendous event," she added.

Dr. Richard H. Carmona, Surgeon General of the U.S., said "We need to do all we can across borders to prevent disease." National Infant Immunization Week is a successful partnership with Vaccination Week "to broaden national efforts to increase awareness about infant immunizations and access to health services. More than 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere have worked together on this unprecedented event to highlight the need for routine vaccinations and to promote access to health services for infants and children," he said.

From the left: Dr. Paul Gully, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Dr. Jon Andrus, chief of PAHO's immunization unit.

Dr. Paul Gully, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said immunization is now saving 3 million lives a year, and Canada's participation in this initiative demonstrates the importance of working together to immunize children.

Dr. Roberto Tapia Conyer, Vice Secretary of Health, Secretary of Health, Mexico, said "Vaccine Week is a symbol of unity and working together with a clear message of solidarity and Panamericanism." He cited the importance of making vaccines affordable for every corner of the Americas, noting that the price of basic immunization has risen from $1 to $20. Affordable, successful vaccination efforts signify unity for every country in the Americas, he said.

"We have an enormous task ahead of us," said Dr. Jon Andrus, chief of PAHO's immunization unit. "We must ensure all children are vaccinated and that we reduce the gap between countries in the application of new and underused vaccines which can have a huge impact in terms of lives saved."

Dr. Roses said, "We have started many initiatives in the Americas that have later become global efforts. Smallpox, polio and measles elimination began here. Rubella is next on the list. New vaccines are being added to immunization programs. Our drive to promote vaccination by having all countries participate at the same time may, too, spread worldwide."

"With full funding of essential vaccine programs throughout the Americas, we can save lives and avoid disease. Our aim is simple: Let us work together to finish the unfinished business of immunization, and to make certain that no child suffer or die from any disease preventable by immunization anywhere in the Americas," Roses said.

PAHO, which serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their people. 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, please visit the Vaccination Week in the Americas web page.

For more information please contact , PAHO, Public Information, 202-974-3459.

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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