Vaccination - an act of love
- Minister of Health in message to mark Vaccination Week
Guyana Chronicle
April 25, 2004

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HEALTH Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said the government has committed important resources to ensure that all target groups, including the nation's children, are immunised.

In a message to mark Vaccination Week celebrated in the Americas from April 24-31, Ramsammy said that more than four per cent of the national health budget is dedicated to direct immunisation costs. He said when direct costs such as buildings and transportation are added, the amount is even higher.

The full text of the message reads:


The Ministry of Health and the Government of Guyana, joins the rest of the countries of the Americas to observe Vaccination Week (VW) in the Americas during the week of 24-31 April, 2004. This is the second Annual Vaccination Week and Guyana takes great pride in joining our brothers and sisters in the Americas to observe and to celebrate VWA (Vaccination Week in the Americas). The VWA started as a sub-regional initiative when the Andean Ministers of Health decided to launch the Andean Vaccination Week last April. It has now grown in the VWA.

Last year, during the inaugural VWA, nineteen countries participated. This year, the number is expected to be more than two dozens of countries in the Americas. Guyana makes a commitment that we will always be a participant in VWA. We share the fundamental principles sustaining the VWA of Equity and Pan Americanism. We take pride not only because we can ensure that our children will be protected against vaccine preventable diseases, but also because this week enables us to reinforce our commitment to work in unity and love with our sisters and brothers in the Americas.

Indeed, one of the objectives of the VWA is to forge joint efforts for great achievements. It's a demonstration that health can be a powerful bridge to solidarity, understanding and hope. While vaccination of children is an important tool for promoting Health For All, it is the Government's position that it is an individual right that it is totally committed to. It is for this reason, that the Government has committed important resources to ensure that all target groups, including every child, is immunised. Indeed, more than four per cent of the national health budget goes for direct immunisation related costs. When indirect costs such as building and transportation are added, the amount is even higher.

The VMA activities seek to promote grater access to immunisation. During this week, we intensity our efforts to promote awareness knowledge about various and immunisation. In addition, we expand our efforts to vaccinate the children who were previously not vaccinated. During this week also, we seek additive inter-county cooperation. In this regard, we will have joint Guyana/ Brazil activities.

The specific goals of 2004 VWA are as follows:

* Reaching children < 5 years and women of childbearing age

* Vaccinating < 5 years and women of childbearing age with incomplete vaccination

* Developing micro-plans for completion of immunisation schedule after vaccination activities.

* Maintaining measles elimination in the region.

* Supporting the implementation of Rubella and CRS elimination and

* Strengthening epidemiological surveillance.

EPI in Guyana was implemented in the early 1970s and focused initially on six vaccine preventable diseases, Paralytic Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Pertusis (Whooping Cough), Tetanus and Tuberculosis (BCG).

Successful programmes, expansion in the late 1990's saw the introduction of five additional antigens against the following diseases; Yellow Fever, Haemophilus Influenza Type B, Hepatitis B, Mumps, Measles and Rubella.

The Guyana EPI has made significant progress and has attained historic benchmarks over the last decade with the elimination of poliomyelitis in 1964 (granted polio free status in 1994 by PAHO/WHO), elimination of measles after the `Big Bang Campaign' in 1991 no reported case of neonatal Betanus nor Diphtheria and the last reported case of yellow in 1968. In 2001, EPI was granted a Surveillance Award by PAHO/WHO for striving to maintain high standards in the Caribbean. In 2001, the programme also became a beneficiary of Global Alliance on Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI) for the support of prevalent vaccines, supplies and infrastructure support. Due to these interventions, the EPI coverage for the last two years has seen a steady increase to over 90 per cent for antigens under one year. Guyana also is one of the few countries that presently utilises the pentavalent (five vaccines in one shot) vaccine in its national programme.

Activities in this programme are geared to provide immunisation (free of cost) for all target populations in order to eliminate the occurrence of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Services are offered at Maternal and Child health clinics around the country and are geared to ensure:

* Every child under one year receives BCG vaccine (against Tuberculosis) at birth

* Every child receives OPV (against Poliomyelitis) at two months, four months and six months

* Every child receives Pentavalent vaccine (against Diphtheria, Pertusis (Whooping Cough), Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza B at two months, four months and six months)

* Every pregnant woman is immunised against Diptheria by receiving the DT toxiod vaccine.

* All children at 12 months receive Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) AND Yellow Fever vaccines and a second dose of MMR at the age of three years nine months.

* All adults who have not been vaccinated receive MMR and Yellow Fever vaccines in order for Guyana to maintain its Measles and Yellow fever - free status.

The policy of the programme is to ensure that all children are fully immunised before admission to nursery schools. Guyana has attained the goals of CARICOM Community and PAHO/WHO to eradicate polio and measles, control rubella infection and reduce Congenital Rubella Syndrome by the year 2005 and to maintain active surveillance to rash with fever and acute flaccid paralysis, vaccine adverse reactions.

PAHO/ WHO has outlined areas that countries of the Region should pay particular attention in vaccination week. For example, areas of low coverage, per-urban slum areas, border areas with high level of migration, indigenous communities, hard to reach areas are target of the EP programme, but efforts are intensified and expanding during VWA.

During vaccination week, Guyana is striving to ensure that all vulnerable groups are targeted paying particular attention to:

* High risk population and low income groups. For example, VWA is being launched in Sophia, Region Four on Sunday April 25.

* High risk border communities. For example vaccination week activities have been coordinated with Brazil and a special inter-county launching with Guyana and Brazil is scheduled in Bon Fin (Brazil) and Lethem (Region Nine, Guyana). Launching in both areas will be April 26, 2004.

Regions will be doing special activities for vaccination week such as:

* Region One - Special launching service in the hospital compound and visit to handicap homes and schools, riverain areas will be visited or vaccination.

* Region Two and Three - Vaccination clinics will be conducted at market squares, health talks to the communities visit to churches.

* Other areas in Region Four - Municipalities would have health talks at prenatal and infant and pre-school clinics and visit day care centres to vaccinate defaulting clients.

* Region Five - Health talks in school, visit hard to reach areas and churches, house-to-house visits.

* Region Six - Immunisation talks shows on television in the region, visit children in hard to reach areas.

* Region Seven - Visit the Mazaruni prisons and riverain communities.

* Region Eight - Launching activities at the Health Center and health talks.

* Region Nine - Will conduct vaccination activities in squatting Block 22 and also host media programme.

Heath centres will be open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm daily from Monday to Friday. If you have any questions on vaccination, visit the health center nearest to you.