Guyana honoured again for immunisation achievement
Guyana Chronicle
December 14, 2006

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GUYANA has again been honoured for its achievement in the field of immunisation.

As a result, the Ministry of Health yesterday received the Henry Smith Award, from Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Country Representative, Dr. Kathleen Israel, for outstanding vaccination coverage of children.

The recognition was also for maintaining good surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases, it was stated at the presentation in the boardroom of the Ministry of Health, Brickdam, Georgetown.

Henry C. Smith was the first Manager in the English-speaking Caribbean of the regional Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), who dedicated 18 years of service to pioneering it the region.

PAHO, in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), for the last two years, has been honouring Caribbean countries which displayed significant improvement in immunisation over the years.

However, this is Guyana’s second outstanding EPI award in the Caribbean. Previously, in 2001, Guyana won a PAHO/WHO surveillance award for striving to maintain high standards.

At the ceremony yesterday, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy acknowledged that immunisation is the most important public health intervention in history, after safe drinking water.

He said millions of lives have been saved and hundreds of millions of diseased cases have been prevented through the process.

Ramsammy explained that small pox was one of the most devastating diseases in the world before 1970.

But WHO started a worldwide vaccination programme in 1967 and, by 1980, small pox ceased to exist.

Noting that it has been eliminated with vaccines, Ramsammy said, in the Caribbean, measles and polio, too, are close to elimination, like a number of other vaccine preventable diseases, rubella for example.

“We have not had a rubella case, suspected or confirmed, for some time now in the region,” Ramsammy disclosed.

He said, up to the 1930s, diphtheria was one of the most deadly diseases around the world.

“Now doctors rarely see these cases anywhere in the region of the Americas. This is because a vaccine against diphtheria was introduced in the 1930s and, gradually, the cases were reduced,” Ramsammy reported.

He said, before 1962, more than 100,000 cases of measles were diagnosed in the Americas and many more went unreported.

Ramsammy revealed that, today, less than a few hundred cases are reported in the Americas and none has been reported in the English-speaking Caribbean for several years now.