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 Press/Media Corner

More resources needed to vaccinate 95 percent of all children


Washington, DC, September 26, 2002 (PAHO) -- The struggle to vaccinate as many children as possible in the Americas has been one of the priorities of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) since its creation. This huge effort has yielded results: Because vaccination coverage has reached 84 percent of all children, the toll from many communicable diseases, especially those that affect children under 5, is being cut.

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Now the new goal set by the 26th Pan American Sanitary Conference, a meeting of health ministers from all countries of the Americas being held at PAHO this week, is that countries allocate enough resources to reach vaccination coverage of 95 percent everywhere.

Polio has already been eradicated from the Americas. And according to the report on Vaccines and Immunization, presented to the health leaders at the conference, "considerable progress is being made in the Americas in reaching the goal of interrupting indigenous measles transmission," with Colombia and Venezuela in mid-2002 being the only countries where endemic measles is still being transmitted. The Region of the Americas continues under threat of importation of the measles virus from other regions where measles is still endemic.

Of the 44 countries and territories of the continent, 40 have already introduced routine vaccination for children against rubella and several have undertaken the accelerated control of rubella and prevention of congenital rubella syndrome, programs that include the vaccination of adults. One of the efforts in this field is to improve investigation and documentation of outbreaks.

With respect to yellow fever, jungle cases continue to occur but a decrease has been observed in cases reported in last four years, as a result of intensive vaccination carried out in Bolivia and Brazil. The recommendation to the countries is that yellow fever vaccine be included in the routine child vaccination schedule, and that all travelers who enter areas where the disease is transmitted be vaccinated. Experts also recommend that integrated vector control and surveillance programs be used to keep down the density of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in urban areas, which will also help prevent dengue outbreaks that are affecting the Region.

All countries have redoubled efforts to reach maximum coverage through national vaccination programs. On the other hand, since 1999, the partnership with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has brought together the public and private sectors to coordinate action and meet desired targets.

"The sustainability of national immunization programs remains a critical point of discussion with Member States," the report noted. In the Americas, immunization is considered a public good and is therefore universally offered free of charge. "However, fluctuations in the allocation of resources due to economic downturns are jeopardizing the implementation of national immunization programs, potentially opening the way for higher costs in case of an outbreak. Moreover, even current levels of financing may not be sufficient as countries seek to concurrently achieve high level coverage in all municipalities, while also introducing new vaccines of public health importance which are more expensive," the report said.

The results of which there exist foci of coverage of low vaccination or that a country does not introduce a new vaccine have an importance and results of such magnitude that should be addressed in a regional framework.

Another priority is the incorporation of new vaccines or combinations to routine vaccination schedules, and to incorporate in that schedule quality vaccines, especially those for respiratory diseases and diarrheal diseases. The objective is equity in immunization in the entire continent.

PAHO, which is also the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, was officially established in 1902. The oldest health organization in the world, PAHO works with all the countries of the Western Hemisphere to improve health and raise the living standards.

For more information, please contact: Daniel Epstein, Office of Public Information, (202) 974-3459, e-mail: epsteind@paho.org.

Related Information:
PAHO BOOK:
Health In The Americas, 2002


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