Letters to the Editor: Vaccinations act of love

Thanks to modern vaccines and
vigilant, committed public health professionals, Cayman is largely free from devastating
diseases such as polio, neonatal tetanus, rubella, mumps, measles, diphtheria,
whooping cough and tuberculosis.

Indeed, vaccines are central to
preventing contagious childhood diseases and immunisation is without doubt one
of the most cost-effective ways of keeping our children healthy.

Locally, our Public Health
Department runs a relevant and modern vaccination programme, covering between
90 and 95 per cent of all infants and some 97 per cent of children entering primary

All vaccines used in the Cayman
Islands are obtained from reputable manufacturers and are administered in strict
compliance with guidelines from the World Health Organisation and the regional
Pan American Health Organisation.

Aware of the fact that any
successful immunisation programme must continually update and adapt, we
recently introduced two new vaccines to the childhood vaccination schedule: The
rotavirus vaccine protects against severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration
caused by the rotavirus and the pneumococcal vaccine protects against serious
infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, and blood poisoning, as well as ear
infections caused by bacteria known as streptococcus pneumonia.

Their steadfast efforts have earned
our public health officials the 2009 Pan American Health Organization’s
Caribbean Sub-region Surveillance Award – an accolade that justly acknowledges
them as being the best among 28 Caribbean nations.

Yet even as we celebrate such
notable successes, we must stay on our guard: Cayman hosts over 100
nationalities as residents, with many more – visitors as well as returning residents
– arriving daily from all over the world. It is therefore evident that even
when we manage to eliminate some diseases locally, we will always be vulnerable
to reintroduction.

Thus as Health Minister, I fully
support our Public Health Department as it strives to give every child access to
age-appropriate vaccines. My ministry will also continue to facilitate the introduction
of any new vaccines recommended by WHO and PAHO.

However, while it is government’s role to provide the
necessary resources for continued success of the programme, I remind you that parents,
too, have a major responsibility. As such, I ask you to join our country’s
efforts this Vaccination Week – observed from 24 April to 1 May – by taking the
simple step of checking your children’s immunisation cards. As the
international immunisation awareness campaign slogan states: Love them, protect them, immunise them.

So, for their sake, ensure their
inoculations are up to date, because vaccination is truly a primary act of love.

Mark Scotland

Minister of Health