Make sure kids get vaccines

The following information on this page is back to school information omitted in Tuesday’s special back to school feature.

There can be few things quite as stressful as deliberately causing your baby pain, but that’s a choice most parents have to make to ensure their children remain safe from deadly diseases.

Watch the face of any mother as she stoically holds her baby still while a nurse or doctor delivers a vaccination injection into the child’s arm to get a glimpse of truly mixed emotions – regret, sorrow and a steely determination.

But it’s a necessary evil that the majority of parents now accept can prevent their children getting potentially deadly and harmful illnesses like measles, mumps, chickenpox or whooping cough – childhood diseases that, thanks to a strict and widespread vaccination programme, have become rare occurrences in the Cayman Islands.

The Public Health Department recommends that all children in Cayman be immunised against 13 vaccine-preventable diseases.

Dr. Kiran Kumar, medical officer of health at the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority said that, in any given year over the past two decades, about 90 per cent of Cayman’s population was immune to the vaccine-preventable diseases listed on the public health body’s schedule.

He hopes to see that figure rises even higher and says that about 98 per cent of school-entry age children are vaccinated.

Cayman’s impressive vaccination programme is ranked as one of the best in the Caribbean. The Public Health Department received one of the Pan American Health Organisation’s highest accolades

in 2009,

the Award for Expanded Programme on Immunisation in the Caribbean, the second time Cayman has received the award. It was also awarded to Cayman in 1999.

At the time, Minister of Health 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.”

Two new vaccinations have been added to the list of recommended inoculations children in Cayman receive – a rotavirus vaccine – which protects against severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration caused by the rotavirus – and the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against serious infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and blood poisoning, as well as ear infections caused by bacteria known as streptococcus pneumonia.

Cayman’s stringent vaccination policy means that several diseases that once were commonplace are now locally eradicated. According to the Public Health Department, polio has not been seen locally since 1957; the last cases of measles were in 1990; and whooping cough has not been reported in Cayman since 1999. Diphtheria has been absent from Cayman for decades and the incidences of Haemophilus influenza Type B appeared more than 10 years ago when two serious cases were reported.

Parents who have moved from overseas to Cayman will notice some slight differences in the vaccinations offered or the timing of the immunisations. If you have moved to Cayman recently, check your child’s immunisation record against the Public Health Department’s immunisation schedule to determine if your child has had all the required shots. If you are moving overseas, check online for the immunisation schedule of the country to which you are moving.

The current childhood immunisation schedule recommends that, by the age of 15 months, infants should have received the following vaccines, which will protect them from 13 vaccine-preventable diseases:

Hepatitis B: Three doses at birth, six weeks and nine months

Tuberculosis: One dose of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, the TB vaccine, at six weeks

Rotavirus: Three doses, at six weeks, four months and six months

0 Three doses of the combined DTaP at two, four and six months and booster at 15 months

Polio: Three doses of inactivated polio vaccine at two, four and six months

Haemophilus influenza type b: Three doses of Hib at two, four and six months and booster at 15 months

Pneumococcal valent-7) Prevnar: Three doses at two, four and six months

Chickenpox: One dose of chickenpox, or Varicella, and booster of Pneumococcal at 12 months

Measles, mumps and rubella: One dose at 15 months

For more information, pick up a vaccination schedule at the Cayman Islands Hospital, speak with your private medical practitioner, or call your district health centres: Public Health Clinic on 244-2648; West Bay Health Centre on 949-3439; Bodden Town Health Centre on 947-2299; East End Health Centre on 947-7440; North Side Health Centre on 947-9525; Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac on 948-2243; or Little Cayman Clinic on 948-0072

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