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Countries Gear Up for Vaccination Week in the Americas

Fifth Anniversary of immunization drive set for April 21-28

Washington, D.C., April 18, 2007 (PAHO)—The countries of the Americas are preparing a huge promotional effort for the fifth year of Vaccination Week in the Americas, which this year aims to immunize some 55 million persons.

The regional launching of the initiative is scheduled Saturday, April 21 in Puerto Iguazu, on the tri-national border between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, with the Ministers of Health of the three countries joining Pan American Health Organization Director Dr. Mirta Roses and other health officials.

Forty five countries and territories are participating in the week by launching a variety of vaccination campaigns, along with other health activities and social communication campaigns to increase awareness of the importance of immunization. The focus of Vaccination Week is to improve vaccination coverage in areas where it is low, to immunize indigenous communities, and to promote the use of new and existing vaccines.

Endorsed by all member countries of PAHO in 2003, the effort has already succeeded in reaching over 147 million children, women, men, and older adults, especially in difficult to reach populations, isolated border communities and municipalities with low immunization coverage.

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The immunization outlook in the Americas has improved in the five years since Vaccination Week began as a joint campaign initiated by Andean countries. Each country has set its own targets and goals, ranging from initiatives to target high-risk populations, implement rubella elimination campaigns and follow-up measles vaccination, to the introduction of new vaccines, such as seasonal influenza, pentavalent, and rotavirus.

Inequities remain a barrier to reaching those left behind in the Region, and this is a challenge Vaccination Week addresses by focusing on principles of equity, access, and Pan Americanism, with the following objectives:

  • Increase and strengthen routine immunization coverage,
  • Improve coverage in isolated and vulnerable populations,
  • Continue to promote basic health care through integrated activities
  • Keep immunization on the political agendas of Member States
  • Improve the awareness of the general population about diseases and vaccines, including the new vaccines on the market, and
  • Focus on the risk of importation of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, rubella and polio.

Among the specific goals of countries participating in Vaccination Week in the America’s are:

  • As part of the Regional goal to eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome by 2010, Guatemala will vaccinate over 7 million men and women against measles and rubella.
  • Bolivia will launch a national yellow fever campaign, with a target population of over 4 million men, women, and children aged 2-44 years. Ecuador will immunize over 3 million people with yellow fever vaccine. Peru also plans to vaccinate against yellow fever and to improve routine immunization coverage in disadvantaged areas. Paraguay will immunize against yellow fever its border municipalities with Bolivia and Brazil.
  • In order to control neonatal tetanus and diphtheria, Paraguay will vaccinate 1 million men and women aged 20-29 years. Nicaragua will also reach half a million boys and girls 10-14 years of age as well as women of childbearing ages with Td (tetanus and diphtheria toxoid.)
  • Countries will also vaccinate against influenza. Argentina will vaccinate over 1 million children and older adults, while Colombia will vaccinate almost 500,000 people. Paraguay will vaccinate children aged 6-23 months, adults aged over 60 years, bird farmers, and other high-risk groups. Brazil will vaccinate 100 percent of its population over 60 years of age against influenza, and Uruguay will vaccinate 40 percent of children 6-24 months of age and 30 percent of adults over 65 years of age. Chile will carry out a national campaign against seasonal influenza, vaccinating almost 3 million children from 6 to 23 months, adults over 60, women in their second semester of pregnancy, people with chronic diseases and health workers.
  • To maintain the achievement of the eradication of wild poliomyelitis in the Americas, Cuba will vaccinate over 300,000 children over 3 years of age with a booster dose of polio vaccine. Honduras will vaccinate over 1 million and Nicaragua almost 700,000 children under the age of 5.
  • The Dominican Republic will vaccinate almost 500,000 children and adults against measles and rubella as part of its follow-up campaign. El Salvador will vaccinate 100,000 schoolchildren with measles-rubella vaccine, and Cuba will vaccinate 200,000 young adults with this vaccine.
  • El Salvador will focus its efforts on vaccinating border districts, poor urban areas, and districts with low coverage. Paraguay will also reach marginal urban areas and rural areas through a catch up campaign. Ecuador will vaccinate half a million students against hepatitis B.
  • Venezuela plans to re-introduce rotavirus vaccine, vaccinating 40,000 children 2 months of age with their first dose.
  • Indigenous communities will be the focus of vaccination in Brazil and Paraguay vaccinating 120,000 and 20,000 indigenous people respectively.
  • Mexico will reach over 10 million children up to 5 years of age, women of childbearing age, adolescents and other adults with a number of vaccines and health interventions.. Also, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua will integrate other health activities during VWA, giving Vitamin A supplementation and anti-parasitic drugs.
  • Caribbean countries will launch social communication campaigns to raise awareness about vaccination in the general population. Under the possibility of disease importation by travelers to the World Cricket Cup 2007, all heads of the Expanded Programs on Immunization in the Caribbean countries and territories signed the Paramaribo Declaration, highlighting the need for surveillance activities and reaching high-risk populations through vaccination.
  • In the main communities along the Mexico-EE.UU border advocacy actions will be boosted to increase current immunization efforts. Representatives of governments, local authorities and international agencies will participate in press conferences, health fairs and visits to community health centers.

PAHO has invited everyone to participate in the fifth anniversary celebration of Vaccination Week, noting that the World Health Organization’s European Region will also hold its second Immunization Week in April and that other regions are considering participation.

Based on successes in the Americas, as well as other Regions’ growing interest in maintaining the achievements of immunization, improving coverage in under-served populations, and maintaining immunization on the political agenda, Vaccination Week is spreading and could eventually become a global initiative.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It serves as the regional office of the World Health Organization, and works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.

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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