The Pan American Health Organisation has recognised the Public Health Department’s efforts to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases in Cayman.
The 2009 Award for Expanded Programme on Immunisation in the Caribbean was presented to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar at the 26th Annual Caribbean EPI Managers Meeting held in St. Kitts earlier this month.
This is the second time that Cayman has received the award. The department was also honoured in 1999.
Health minister Mark Scotland said: ‘It once again acknowledges our public health officials’ rigorous efforts to protect the health of the population. They continue to work towards immunising every child.’
He specifically commended the efforts of Public Health Surveillance Officer Timothy McLaughlin and EPI Manager Alice Jane Ebanks who spearhead Cayman’s surveillance programmes for vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, measles and rubella.
The Islands’ immunisation programme is ranked as one of the most successful in the Caribbean. On average, more than 90 per cent of the population is immunised annually, according to the Public Health Department.
These figures have allowed public health officials to make significant strides in eradicating certain communicable diseases, Dr. Kumar said.
‘However, our goal is to achieve the target of 95 per cent immunisation,’ said Dr. Kumar, who is urging all parents to check their children’s immunisation records.
Dr. Kumar added: ‘Parents must ensure that children are fully immunised. It will greatly support our efforts if they keep track of the schedule (as printed in each child’s record) and make the necessary appointments through the Public Health Department or any of the district health centres.’
According to the Public Health Department, Cayman’s vigorous immunisation programme means the Cayman Islands rarely sees cases of major infectious diseases. For example, the last case of polio occurred in 1957. There was one case of imported rubella in 2000 which spread to nine people, mainly older adults, because children and young adults had been immunised.
No Congenital Rubella Syndrome – birth defects from rubella infection – was reported following these cases. The last Congenital Rubella Syndrome case occurred in 1996 in a child born locally to an expatriate.
The last case of measles occurred in 1990 when 27 cases were reported, while diphtheria has been absent in Cayman for decades.
It has been more than 10 years since the last known case of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) occurred, when two serious cases of the infection were reported.
The last time pertussis, or whooping cough, was seen in Cayman was when a local outbreak occurred in 1999 with nine cases reported.