Address for Vaccination Week of the Americas

National Immunization Manager - Nurse Tecla Jn Baptiste
By National Immunization Manager – Nurse Tecla Jn Baptiste

St. Lucia joins the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America in celebrating the 20th Vaccination Week of the Americas from April 23 to April 30, 2022 under the theme “Are You Fully Vaccinated? #GetAllYourShots.”

This celebration sets itself to close immunization gaps, wherever or whoever they may be. The goal is to reach those who have not yet received the full benefits of routine immunizations and/or the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. It aims to build trust and confidence in the safety and effectiveness of ALL vaccines; strengthen the scope and reach of the routine vaccination program during and after the COVID-19 pandemic; and accelerate COVID-19 vaccination operations to achieve high national vaccination coverage rates.

According to the World Health Organization, “In 2020, more than 2.7 million children of the Americas were not vaccinated or remained under-vaccinated”. This means they are susceptible to diseases like measles and polio – all of which had been eliminated from the Americas. Bearing this in mind, Vaccination Week of the Americas is a time when the countries of the hemisphere work collaboratively to raise awareness on the importance of immunization in health care service delivery. It is a time when a special effort is made to reach out to citizens, ensuring that those who may not readily access health care services such as vaccination, are given the opportunity to do so.

Our population must be protected from the ever-present reality of a potential outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases. We must continue to engage and remain committed to maintaining high vaccination rates to protect our population by not only achieving, but also maintaining the recommended 95% national vaccination coverage in children 5 years and under.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage

Let me direct your attention to our current situation, the COVID-19 pandemic:

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on health care systems, especially the primary healthcare services, as we focused on responding to this public health emergency. However, it is essential that we continue to advocate and maintain focus on the routine immunization program.

The Americas have noted decreases in the vaccine coverages of polio, measles and rubella, diptheria and other childhood diseases before COVID-19 struck. The pandemic has further exacerbated these trends, making this a public health concern. There is increased risk of re-emergence of diseases which have been eliminated in our population.

The National immunization program has noted an overall decline in the routine vaccination coverage in the primary series from 92% in 2019 to 80% in 2021. The same trend is noted for the booster doses administered to children over 1 year old. It should be noted that a major factor to this decline is untimely/late vaccination due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For COVID-19, the vaccination coverage is 29.4% – still short of achieving the first recommended target of 40%.

The National programme continues its efforts towards reducing the COVID-19 burden on the population. A low vaccine coverage rate does not afford us the protection against severe disease, hospitalizations and death and increases the risk of the country for the likely emergence and circulation of newer variants.

At this moment, I take this opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of the health team who continue to sustain the National Immunization program especially during the pandemic. The gains of the National Immunization program would not be possible without your efforts.

ALL vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines are available at ALL Wellness Centers across the island. We therefore encourage you to visit your nearest Wellness Center and consult your healthcare provider. A special appeal goes out to parents to ensure that your children’s vaccination status is up-to- date. Adults are also encouraged to get vaccinated.

Be responsible. Protect yourselves and your loved ones…. GET ALL YOUR SHOTS

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