Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph says the region of the Americas is the second in the world with the worst vaccine coverage and that needs to change.
He was speaking at the official launch of World Immunization Week, celebrated in the last week of April.
The week’s observance aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.
“Around 2.7 million children did not receive all their vaccine doses in 2021, leaving them without full protection against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. Two countries, Brazil and Mexico, account for more than 50% of children that have never received a vaccine in the region. Failure to effectively implement and maintain routine vaccination coverage leaves children and open, quote, susceptible to diseases such as polio, tennis, measles, and diphtheria,” Sir Molwyn said
The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
And Sir Molwyn said PAHO’s commitment to strengthening national immunization programs does not stop at these events.
“According to the director, the organization continues to work with countries of the region, technical partners, and donors to strengthen and modernize national immunization programs, improve and reinforce cold chain operations, and implement innovative approaches to better tackle the challenges the pandemic has brought forth. PAHO is also supporting vaccine production through its regional platform to advance the manufacturing of COVID 19 vaccines and other health technologies in the Americas. And let me state here, this is a new initiative in the Americas,” he said
Furthermore, he said PAHO is already working on the regional development and production of vaccines.
“National immunization programs are our first line of defense against outbreaks, according to Dr. Barbosa. But each one of us can do our part to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and we can start by getting all our shots during vaccination Week in the Americas,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sri Molwyn said the risk of outbreaks due to vaccine-preventable diseases is currently at its highest point in the last 30 years.
“Vaccination Week in the Americas has supported the elimination of six vaccine-preventable diseases polio, measles, congenital rubella syndrome, neonatal, tetanus, Hepatitis B, and smallpox. This year, Vaccination Week in the Americas aims to support 45 countries and territories to reach more than 92 million people, with over 144 million doses of different vaccines. Our approach to preventable disease is holistic and progressive.”
Where Antigua and Barbuda is concerned, Sir Molwyn said the country lost a lot of grounds because of “the unfortunate, what I might say, misinformation that has been effectively spread like wildfire throughout Antigua and Barbuda”