For years, vaccines have protected children from deadly diseases like polio, measles, rubella, and mumps. These vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, continue to save lives, especially today,” stated Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency, in observance of Vaccination Week in the Americas 2022.
This year, CARPHA joins its public health partners and the rest of the world in observing the 20th Annual Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA 2022) which runs from April 24th to 30th under the theme “Are You Fully Vaccinated? Get All Your Shots”
The Caribbean is the world leader in this regard, as the first region to eliminate measles. In 1971, smallpox was successfully eradicated from the Caribbean, followed by the eradication of polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015. Caribbean countries have applied high standards in the delivery of vaccination programmes to eliminate diseases that cause death and disability. However, if we fall behind in our programmes, we run the risk of recurrence of measles and other previously eradicated diseases like polio. More people are likely to get sick with vaccine preventable diseases, thus increasing the burden on the healthcare systems.
To maintain community protection, Ministries of Health should continue their routine vaccine coverage. This will ensure that a person completes their vaccination schedule in the shortest possible time frame for effective protection. Continued vigilance is important, and general practitioners should remain alert and prepared to take appropriate actions in suspected cases of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Although a large percentage of persons in the Caribbean and countries of the Americas have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, many still remain unvaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are our best protection against severe illness and death caused by this virus, and greater effort must be made to achieve maximum coverage so that economies can resume activity with the least disruption due to COVID-19.
Building defenses against vaccine-preventable diseases requires a team effort, and each and every one of us is an integral part of that defense. Let us do our part to keep our loved ones safe. Let us sound the call for action to encourage persons who are not fully vaccinated, to get all their vaccines; to ensure our young and old loved ones are vaccinated; and that no one suffers or dies from a vaccine-preventable disease.
It is more cost effective to prevent than to treat a disease – Act Now, Get All Your Shots!