Guyana to be honoured by UN for outstanding immunisation programme
Guyana Chronicle
November 20, 2002

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GUYANA will be honoured for its outstanding vaccination programme countrywide by the Global Alliance for Vaccination (GAVI), today.

The award will be presented to Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy who is representing Guyana at GAVI's Annual Conference which began yesterday in Senegal, Africa, according to a Government Information Agency (GINA) release.

Guyana is the only Caribbean country to be honoured among 13 others, it noted.

GAVI is a body similar to the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, Malaria and HIV/AIDS, where countries, and other donor agencies and charitable bodies contribute to its funding. It was established by the United Nations and preceded the Global Fund.

Through GAVI developing countries are able to access funds to finance their immunisation programmes against diseases which can be prevented by vaccines.

Guyana started vaccination programmes in the early 1960's giving the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). Other vaccines have since been added. However, prior to the 1990's, Guyana's immunisation coverage was extremely low, with an average of under 70 percent.

During the 1970's coverage started expanding also the menu of vaccines. This has resulted in ballooned cost and the Treasury could not have afforded the cost of maintaining the vaccination programme.

In 2001 Guyana started benefitting from GAVI for local vaccination programmes, after the body accepted its proposal.

The release reported Minister Ramsammy as saying that it is estimated that between the years 2001 and 2005, Guyana would have received about US$1.3M in terms of vaccine purchases.

At present, several vaccines are being provided locally. These include the BCG for tuberculosis, OPV, Pentavalent including DPT, Hib and Hepatitis B for influenza and whooping cough, Diptheria and tetanus (DT) for children and pregnant women, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) and yellow fever.

Most of the ten Administrative Regions in Guyana have recorded high coverage, but the record has shown that Regions One (Barima/Waini), Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Eight (Potaro/Siparuni) and Nine (Upper Takatu/Upper Essequibo) have low coverage span especially with the OPV and MMR.

"Guyana has one of the most extensive immunisation programmes in the Caribbean Region", he said.

Following its acceptance to GAVI, Guyana was touted as a "pathfinder country" for vaccination programmes and the Minister's presence at the conference will also serve to garner continued support.

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