Next week marks the annual time of year to remind the public about the importance of vaccinations and to acknowledge the strides taken to eradicate deadly diseases.
The Cayman Islands is joining the celebration of the 11th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas, which runs from 20-26 April. This year’s theme is “Vaccination: a shared responsibility”.
Since its inception in 2003, more than 410 million people of all ages have been vaccinated during campaigns conducted under the framework of Vaccination Week in the Americas.
The initiative also provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of immunisation, as well as to strengthen routine immunisation programmes and improve vaccination coverage rates.
Since 2005, other World Health Organisation regions have launched their own Vaccination Week celebrations, including Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, the Western Pacific and the countries of South-East Asia. This led to the establishment of World Immunisation Week in 2012, which serves as an over-arching framework to unite all global efforts.
Regionally, and globally, great strides have been made in the reduction, elimination and eradication of diseases by immunisation. These include the eradication of smallpox which the World Health Organisation declared the world free of the disease in 1980 and the elimination in 2002 of indigenous measles regionally – in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Caribbean sub-region has been free of indigenous measles for more 20 years.
The last case of indigenous Rubella, also known as German measles, was reported in the Caribbean region in 2009, while polio in the area was eliminated in 1991.
There has also been a significant reduction of other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough).
Here in the Cayman Islands, local immunisation successes have included the elimination of polio, of which there has been no reported cases since 1957. There have been no cases of diphtheria since 1983 or cases of childhood whooping cough since the mid-1980s. Measles are considered eliminated in Cayman, with no cases reported since 1990. The last case of Rubella was seen in Cayman in 2000.
Mumps have also been eliminated in Cayman, with no local cases since 2007. There have been no cases of tetanus in newborn babies for decades.
There has also been a marked reduction in the number of local chickenpox cases – from more than 300 in 2000 to 52 cases last year.
Get children vaccinated
Health Services Authority Immunisation Programme Manager Alice Jane Ebanks noted that: “Despite our successes in immunisation, some children still do not complete their vaccination schedules, leaving them vulnerable. There is no room for complacency and everyone needs to bear that in mind. As the slogan says, vaccination is a shared responsibility. All concerned stake holders must play their role in ensuring children and others are immunised.”
She warned: “If countries fail to achieve high immunisation coverages, the diseases will ultimately return.”
The Cayman Islands’s vaccination schedule 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); whooping cough; 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 offer 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 Pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar) at 2, 4, 6 months) One dose of Varicella (chickenpox) & booster of Pneumococcal (at 12 months) One dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella); & a booster dose of combined DTaP and Hib. (at 15 months) Children also need booster doses of combined DTaP and IPV and 2nd dose at school entry (4-5 years)
In addition to the child immunisations, Public Health also offers vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases for adults. The most common diseases vaccine boosters are for tetanus and diphtheria (a combined shot) and the annual influenza (flu) vaccine.
Anyone who has never received any vaccines should visit the Public Health Department or a District Health Centre by appointment and get the necessary immunisations that are appropriate for their age and health status. The Public Health Department also offers advice and vaccinations to travellers to various countries. Vaccines such as yellow fever and typhoid fever are available as recommended for specific destinations.
For information regarding immunisation, contact your private paediatrician or the following district health centres: Public Health Department: 244-2648 West Bay Health Centre: 949-3439 Bodden Town Health Centre: 947-2299 East End Health Centre: 947-7440 North Side Health Centre: 947-9525 Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac: 948-2243 Little Cayman Clinic: 948-0072
Here in the Cayman Islands, local immunisation successes have included the elimination of polio, of which there has been no reported cases since 1957.