Vaccination Week: Thousands of Health Workers in Remote Areas
Washington, D.C., April 29, 2005 (PAHO)—Vaccination Week in the Americas is proceeding as planned, with legions of health workers heading deep into remote areas, border communities and marginal urban areas to reach people who have not received vaccines.
The vaccination week initiative was officially launched in Washington this week by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada. Dr. Mirta Roses, director of PAHO, said at the launching, "This is an initiative that spans every country in the Americas and focuses on saving lives among the poor, the indigenous, those in remote areas and in urban pockets of poverty."
"Each country set its own priorities in line with its specific needs, in accordance with the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI)," said Dr. Jon Andrus, chief of PAHO's Immunization Unit. Some of these goals have already been met or exceeded. Peru, for example, has already has exceeded the original number of children targeted for vaccination.
Although definitive figures are not yet in, many countries are reporting that their initial strategies and awareness activities are succeeding. Among them:
- The United States organized a national awareness week on vaccination, called National Infant Immunization Week in the U.S, and held a series of events on the U.S.-Mexico Border. "We can now protect children from more vaccine preventable diseases than ever before," said Dr. Stephen L. Cochi, acting director of the National Immunization Program for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . "Millions of children have been vaccinated, and millions of cases of disease, disability and death have been prevented."
- Canada held National Immunization Awareness Week April 24 to 30. "While immunization coverage rates in Canada are among the highest in the world, we cannot become complacent. Some countries have experienced a re-emergence of disease as a result of a decline in immunization rates. National Immunization Awareness Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of immunization to the health of each and every Canadian, both in preventing the return of disease and in controlling emerging infections," said Ujjal Dosanjh, Minister of Health, and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State (Public Health).
- Guatemala is vaccinating 180,000 children under 5 against poliomyelitis, mumps, rubella, and measles, and other diseases. For the first time in a national vaccination campaign, the country is administering the pentavalent vaccine—against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and meningitis—to a population of 80,000 infants.
- Paraguay is prioritizing the elimination of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, vaccinating 3.5 million men, women and children between 5 and 39 years of age.
- Argentina is vaccinating 3.5 million children under 5 years old.
- Nicaragua is vaccinating against rubella and providing vitamin A and treatment against parasites to more than 900,000 children.
- Brazil is immunizing to 12 million people over 60 years old against influenza. And focusing on vaccinating 190,000 indigenous people in remote areas.
- Cuba is vaccinating children in the age group under five, trying to reach a total of 542,000 children.
- Colombia and Venezuela are implementing an integrated surveillance system to monitor the vaccination coverage.
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.