Junior Minister of Health on Nevis delivers address to mark Vaccination Week 2019

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (April 20, 2019) — Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration delivers the following address as Nevis joins the rest of the region in observance of Vaccination Week 2019, from April 20th to 27th.

During the week of April 20th to 27th, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis will join with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the rest of the region, in celebrating Vaccination Week in the Americas.

The first observance of this week was in 2003 and now after 17 years of successful implementation throughout the PAHO member states, the region can celebrate a number of achievements. These include the vaccination of more than 740 million persons and the elimination of six diseases.

These significant milestones represent the extraordinary efforts by member states to advance equity and access to vaccination, strengthen national immunization programmes, raise population awareness on the importance of immunization and keep vaccines on the forefront of political agendas.

The slogan this year is “Protect your community. Do your part. #GetVax.” This slogan was chosen as a firm call to action by the various countries and communities of the region. It serves as a reminder of the important role we play collectively, in supporting vaccination and preventing the spread of deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.

This call to action for our communities is even more relevant in recent times with the resurgence of the infectious disease measles. It demonstrates how the action of a group of persons, can negatively impact a community. An outbreak of measles in one territory has the potential to spread quickly to other territories, especially those with a low uptake of vaccines. Hence the ongoing effort by the health sector throughout the world to increase awareness and access to vaccination.

Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, we have achieved a number of milestones over the years. These include maintenance of approximately 97 percent average coverage of our children against diseases such as Hepatitis B, Polio, H. Influenza, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Measles, Mumps and Rubella. Since 1956 there has been no confirmed cases of Poliomyelitis and since 1984 no confirmed cases of measles or Rubella in the Federation.

Noteworthy, is that in 2015 the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth was reintroduced and the Influenza vaccine is also listed for the vulnerable groups of our population. Plans are in place to introduce the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine later this year.  Additionally, the implementation of the Electronic immunization registry at our health centres ensures real time data collection on the expanded programme on immunization.

This year the community based nursing services will commemorate Vaccination Week in the Americas with a number of activities. These include:

  • Health education sessions on Vaccine-preventable diseases at antenatal clinics, child health clinics, Nurseries, Daycares and Preschools across the islands.
  • A measles outbreak simulation exercise for healthcare workers and,
  • A “Mop Up” campaign for defaulter children.

Vaccination has been proven to be an effective method of primary prevention and the evidence has demonstrated its benefit, with the eradication of a number of infectious diseases. However the successes gained are threatened by those who refuse to vaccinate their children.

These decisions can ultimately have significant public health implications. We have a duty to protect our children, our communities, our federation, our region and our world.

The Ministry of Health will continue to do its part to strengthen and support the immunization programme, by implementing recommendations from PAHO/WHO and strategies to maintain our high percentages of coverage against vaccine-preventable diseases.

The community healthcare workers will continue to work on the ground to ensure that all relevant groups in our communities have the education about vaccines and the opportunity to be vaccinated.

I take this opportunity to thank our community nurses for being at the forefront of these efforts on a daily basis.

Best wishes to our community health services during this vaccination week and let us all do our part to protect our communities!

Thank you.

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