The growing outbreak of measles currently being recorded in a number of countries of the Americas and Europe is spurring the Department of Health and Wellness to do more with its vaccination programme.
The Department is presently putting together a robust plan that entails visiting all pre-schools and daycare centres on island to ensure that every child is immunized against the disease. The Department, which has been working with primary schools, decided to step up its game by targeting children who are one-year-old, the lowest it would go to immunize against measles.
To intensify efforts at enhancing its national vaccination coverage, the Department is now identifying persons who have not received the required vaccines and providing them with the vaccines. The Department is also providing the measles vaccines to persons whose vaccination status is not compliant with the established protocol.
“Following a Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Survey conducted in 2015 by the Department of Health in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization, a road map was developed for strengthening national coverage for Measles. This resulted in a review of the vaccination schedule to improve the uptake of the two required doses for protection from measles infection. The Department of Health has also strengthened its linkages with the Department of Education to monitor children enrolled in the school system, to assess their vaccination status and ensure compliance with the vaccination schedule,” noted the Department in a release yesterday.
The last case of active measles transmission in Saint Lucia was recorded in 1990. To date, Saint Lucia has maintained its status of being ‘measles free’ through a robust vaccination programme implemented through the community-based Primary Health Care system, alongside private sector vaccination services.
The Department of Health last week took the bold step of quarantining a 440-foot cruise ship containing over 300 passengers in an effort to ensure that Saint Lucia stays measles-free. The Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health Dr. said the decision to quarantine the vessel was legally sound and in keeping with good public health practice.
The government, in an effort to maintain the country’s measles free status, has informed citizens that measles vaccines are available at all local health centres at no cost to them.
“The vaccine is administered in two doses, at 12 months and 18 months of age. Adults who are unsure of the vaccination status of their children are asked to visit their health care provider with their vaccination cards to verify their vaccination. Infection with Measles can be prevented if persons are fully immunized against the disease,” said the Department’s Immunization Manager, Nurse Julietta Fredericks-Cassius.