The 2012 Vaccination Week in the Americas runs from 23-27 April.
Vaccination week is an extraordinary regional effort led by the Pan American Health Organisation to raise awareness and ensure access to vaccination for all residents of the Caribbean and Latin American countries and territories.
Vaccines have been proven to save many lives and prevent suffering as they are a key factor in preventing childhood diseases such as measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tuberculosis, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B and chicken pox.
What is more, vaccines not only protect the current generation of children, but they also ensure that future generations are protected. For example, the eradication of small pox by 1980 was due to the aggressive, worldwide vaccination campaign against it. With the world free of smallpox, it is no longer necessary to administer smallpox vaccines to any one, in any part of the world.
Vaccination is no doubt an important ally in the quest for better health for all and the Cayman Islands once again proudly join this regional awareness campaign. Locally we have a robust and modern national immunisation programme which is offered free to all children.
Our children are provided immunisation against 13 communicable diseases namely; tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, haemophilus influenza B infections, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox pneumococcal disease and rotavirus.
My ministry is proud of the level of immunisation coverage in the Cayman Islands, which surpasses that of some developed countries, and has been consistent at an average of 98 per cent for certain diseases.
Executed by an ever vigilant Public Health Department, we can truly be proud of our immunisation schedule. We continue to add new vaccines as they are developed. For example, our immunisation schedule includes pneumococcal vaccines and the rotavirus vaccine.
Currently we are working with the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Ministry of Education in offering the HPV vaccine in schools to make it convenient to parents if they choose to have their children vaccinated against HPV.
Regionally, and globally, great strides have been made in the reduction, elimination and eradication of disease by immunisation. For example, indigenous measles has been eliminated from North America, Latin America and the Caribbean with the last case reported in 2002. The Caribbean itself has been free of indigenous measles for over 20 years. Indigenous Rubella (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.
Incidences of other vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis have decreased significantly.
Some of our immunisation successes include the fact that the Cayman Islands has had no polio cases since 1957, no diphtheria cases since 1983, no measles since 1990 and no cases of rubella since 2000. No cases of tetanus in newborn babies (Neonatal Tetanus) have been reported in many decades and the last case of tetanus occurred in 2003 in an elderly adult.
While we celebrate these achievements, we must remain vigilant.
So please, use this Vaccination Week to check your child’s immunisation record and make sure it is up-to-date – for you, for me, for everyone.
Mark Scotland, Minister of Health