Starting 20 April, the Cayman Islands joins hands with other countries in the American Region to celebrate Vaccination Week in the Americas with the theme Vaccination: A shared responsibility.
VWA is an annual hemispheric event endorsed by the Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organisation aiming to save people from deadly diseases. It began in 2003, as a result of a proposal in 2002 by the Ministers of Health in the Andean Region after a measles outbreak in Venezuela and Colombia.
Within a decade, more than 411 million people had been vaccinated against a wide variety of diseases. Yet, even today, globally an estimated 22 million infants are not fully immunised and more than 1.5 million children, younger than five die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccination.
According to the World Health Organisation, immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions of the 20th Century. It prevents between 2 million and 3 million deaths every year. From infants to senior citizens, immunisation protects against diseases such as polio, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, rubella, pneumonia, rotavirus diarrhoea, tetanus and many more.
The benefits of immunisation continue into adolescence and adulthood, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as meningitis, influenza, as well as cancers of the liver and cervix.
The countries of the Americas have been world leaders in the elimination and control of vaccine-preventable diseases. The region was the first to eradicate smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1991. The last endemic case of indigenous measles was reported in 2002 and the Caribbean 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. Incidence of other vaccine preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis has decreased significantly.
Here in the Cayman Islands, an immunisation programme that is more than 60 years old has eliminated small pox, polio, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, and tuberculous meningitis.
As we commemorate the history of this important service in our region, I am pleased that the Cayman Islands is among the leading countries that offer free vaccines to all children.
We take pride in having achieved a 94 per cent of infants immunised and 98 per cent immunisation rate at school entry. At the same time this statistic suggests that our work is incomplete. To reach universal immunisation, we must continue to share responsibility – that is partnership between both health care workers and parents alike for ensuring that we remember this year round, the true meaning of this week-long celebration. This is that vaccination is an act of love towards our families and towards our communities.
I urge all parents to check the immunisation records of their children, consult relevant health professionals, and get the immunisations up to date.
Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture
Within a decade, more than 411 million people had been vaccinated against a wide variety of diseases.