Love Them. Protect Them. Immunize Them.
Vaccination Week in the Americas
Countries Gear up for Vaccination Week in the Americas April 22-29
Washington, DC, April 21, 2006 (PAHO)—Countries all over the Americas are gearing for the start of Vaccination Week in the Americas tomorrow, aiming to vaccinate millions of children, young women, and seniors from Canada to the tip of South America. For the fourth consecutive year, health ministries and state and local health officials are focusing on preventing disease by vaccinating more than 38 million children and adults in 35 countries in the Americas.
Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said “Vaccination Week in the Americas has focused attention on inequities in immunization and on reaching the most vulnerable persons with least access to health services. The sustainability of vaccination as a regional policy consolidates its status as a public good.”
Vaccination Week in the Americas for 2006 takes place from April 22 to 29, with countries making special efforts to reach children, women, men, and older adults and vulnerable populations such as indigenous and minority communities, those living in marginal urban areas, and municipalities with low coverage.
In the United States, it is held in conjunction with National Infant Immunization Week, a special effort to reach the nearly 1 million children who are not adequately immunized. Over 500 communities throughout the US, from New York City to San Diego, California are participating in the week to immunize children and to highlight the benefits of vaccination and the need for routine vaccinations.
Mexico and Canada are also making special efforts to promote vaccination during the week, and officials from those countries are due to brief their U.S. colleagues on the progress at a special session in Phoenix, Arizona April 27, as part of the Arizona Immunization Conference.
Dr. Jon K. Andrus, who heads the Pan American Health Organization’s immunization efforts, said, “Vaccination Week in the Americas is the tangible result of the commitment of our member countries to make prevention and access to health a high priority. We have saved many lives and prevented much disease and suffering through vaccination.”
“This international alliance of countries in the Americas is crucial to strengthen immunization activities in all countries, especially along border areas where population movements are frequent, and among the most vulnerable populations,” Andrus said.
Vaccination was the key in global smallpox eradication, in eradicating polio from the Americas, in eliminating measles transmission, and is now crucial for the new goal of rubella elimination in the Americas by 2010, Andrus said, noting that vaccines are among the most successful, cost-effective public health tools available to prevent disease and death.
Planning began last October, when managers of national Expanded Program on Immunization programs set country goals and strategies, and joint efforts in border areas. For 2006, 36 countries and territories are participating in activities that range from national vaccination campaigns to social communication and public awareness campaigns.
Countries have chosen which vaccines their campaigns will focus on, and set goals based on national priorities. Bolivia, for example, is starting a national campaign to eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, aiming to vaccinate some 3.8 million men and women from 15 to 39 years of age. Venezuela is conducting its follow-up campaign on measles and rubella by vaccinating over 2.2 million children 1 to 4 years of age, going door to door and utilizing fixed posts. Uruguay is vaccinating 200,000 children aged 1 to 4 against measles and rubella.
Influenza is a special focus in some countries, which are vaccinating at-risk groups against seasonal influenza. Brazil will vaccinate 12 million adults over 60 years of age. Argentina, Chile and Uruguay will vaccinate 1.7 million people over 65 years old and children under 2 years old, as well as health and emergency personnel and pregnant women. Panama will also target these groups to vaccinate over 68,000 people.
Peru and Ecuador are focusing their campaigns on the prevention of yellow fever in enzootic areas. Peru will vaccinate 1.5 million ages 2 and up, while Ecuador will vaccinate 200,000 ages 1 and up. The latter will also focus on at-risk women of childbearing age, vaccinating them against tetanus to prevent neonatal tetanus in newborns.
Brazil’s campaign also focuses on indigenous people and will immunize 280,000 persons – 50 percent of the indigenous population in the country – against all diseases in the Expanded Program on Immunization, identifying people with incomplete schedules and performing an active search of suspected cases. Cuba will target over 500,000 children under 3 and 9 years of age. El Salvador will vaccinate over 800,000 children under 5 while performing rapid coverage monitoring of their immunization efforts. The Dominican Republic will focus on children under 3, giving them an additional dose of polio vaccine and offering vitamin A supplementation.
Some countries are also offering additional health services. Guatemala will offer anti-parasitic drugs and nutritional supplements, while Panama will measure breastfeeding frequency and study other nutritional issues in children 6 to 24 months of age.
Many countries in the Caribbean have programmed large communication and social mobilization campaigns. Jamaica will conduct community sessions to raise awareness, while Dominica will hold town hall discussions, PTA meetings and other school presentations. Grenada and Turks and Caicos will use TV and radio for their outreach efforts. Antigua and Barbuda will actively identify susceptible populations and notify them about the importance of vaccination.