Cayman marks vaccination week

Next week, the Cayman Islands joins other countries in the Americas to mark the 10th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas.

This year’s vaccination week features the slogan: “For you, for me, for everyone. Get vaccinated.”

Worldwide, only one disease – smallpox – has been eradicated due to immunisation. Polio, which was eliminated in the American region in 1994, but is still present in parts of Africa and Asia, is next on the list of vaccine-preventable diseases poised for eradication.

In the Cayman Islands, there have been no cases of polio since 1957, no cases of diphtheria since 1983, no measles since 1990 and no cases of rubella since 2000. The last case of tetanus occurred in 2003 in an elderly adult. No cases of tetanus in newborn babies have been reported in several decades.

“Nevertheless, we must not become complacent. Despite such successes in immunisation, some children still do not complete their vaccination schedules, leaving them vulnerable. Parents must check against the schedule to ensure that their children are up-to-date with their immunisations,” said Cayman Islands Health Services Authority Immunisation Programme Manager Alice Jane Ebanks.

“If countries fail to achieve high immunisation coverages, the diseases will ultimately come back,” she warned.

Vaccination Week in the Americas was initially proposed in 2002 by ministers of health in the Andean region following a measles outbreak in Venezuela and Colombia. Since its inception in 2003, more than 365 million people across all ages have been vaccinated against a variety of diseases.

Since 2005, other World Health Organisation regions have launched their own Vaccination Weeks in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, the Western Pacific and South-East Asia.

This year, all the regions of the world will come together to celebrate the first World Immunisation Week under the global slogan of “Protect your world. Get vaccinated.” The purpose of the campaign is to strengthen routine immunisation programmes and improve vaccination coverage rates.

The last case of indigenous measles in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean was reported in 2002. The Caribbean sub region itself has been free of indigenous measles for more than 20 years.

Indigenous rubella, or German measles, has also been eliminated from the American region with the last case reported in 2009. Polio was eliminated from the American region in 1994. Other vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis have decreased significantly in incidence.

Cayman has a vaccination schedule that offers protection against a range of serious illnesses, such as liver diseases caused by the hepatitis B virus; severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration caused by rotavirus; tuberculosis (infection of the lungs); haemophilus influenza B disease which can cause serious infection of the brain, spinal cord, blood or other organs; diphtheria (throat infection); tetanus (lockjaw); pertussis (whooping cough); paralytic disease (polio); measles that can cause blindness; mumps; rubella and chicken pox.

The current childhood immunisation schedule recommends that, by the age of 15 months, infants should have received the following vaccines, which offers protection against 13 diseases:

Three doses of Hepatitis B; (at birth, 6 weeks, 9 months)

One dose of BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin – TB vaccine); (at 6 weeks)

Three doses of Rotavirus; (6 weeks, 4 months, 6 months)

Three doses of the combined DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) and Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B) at 2, 4, 6 months)

Three doses of pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar) at 2, 4, 6 months)

One dose of Varicella (chickenpox) and booster of pneumococcal (at 12 months)

One dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella); and a booster dose of combined DTaP and Hib. (at 15 months)

In addition to the child immunisations, Public Health also offers vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases for adults. The most common ones being boosters for tetanus and diphtheria (a combined shot) and the annual influenza vaccine.

In addition, if someone has never received any vaccines, they can visit Public Health Clinic and get the necessary immunisations that are appropriate for their age and health status. Health advice is offered to travellers to various countries at the Public Health Clinic. Vaccines such as yellow fever and typhoid fever are available as recommended for the specific destinations.

For information regarding immunisation, contact your private paediatrician or the following district health centres: Public Health Department at 244-2648; West Bay Health Centre at 949-3439; Bodden Town Health Centre at 947-2299; East End Health Centre at 947-7440; North Side Health Centre at 947-9525; Faith Hospital on Cayman Brac at 948-2243; Little Cayman Clinic at 948-0072.