The Cayman Islands is joining other members of the Pan American Health Organization to mark the 14th anniversary of Vaccination Week in the Americas.
The theme is “Go for the gold! Get vaccinated!,” designed to build on the momentum leading up to the celebration of the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil in August 2016.
Since the initiative’s inception in 2003, more than 580 million people have been vaccinated during campaigns conducted as part of the Vaccination Week, according to nurse Angela Graham, manager of Cayman’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation.
“As a matter of priority, we will continue to promote vaccination through advocacy, education and communication activities during this week,” Ms. Graham said.
This year, Vaccination Week runs through April 30. As part of the week, the Cayman Islands Public Health Department will host a special Saturday clinic to assist all children and adults in need of vaccinations.
The clinic will be held at the Public Health Department from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Adults in need of tetanus boosters, healthcare workers who need vaccines, or people who are planning overseas travel within the next three weeks are invited to attend. No appointment is necessary, and vaccines will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.
Children who need vaccinations, including those with missed or outstanding doses, can also receive immunizations at the clinic. Parents will be contacted to schedule appointments.
Over the years, the Cayman Islands Public Health Department has developed and maintained an extensive vaccination schedule, which a coverage rate of 95 percent for most vaccines.
Nevertheless, according to Ms. Graham, “There are still some children who do not complete their vaccine schedule, thus leaving themselves and other vulnerable groups at risk.
“We are encouraging parents to make and keep appointments with healthcare providers to ensure their child is up-to-date on all shots.”
Vaccination Week has the support of Premier and Minister of Health Alden McLaughlin, who said in a message marking the week that “vaccination is an act of love.”
The premier noted that the countries in 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. Cayman’s own immunization program is more than 60 years old and has eliminated smallpox, polio, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles and rubella.
“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 through our Public Health Department,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
“I urge all parents to check their children’s immunization records and to ensure that their immunizations are up to date,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
The premier said that while the island can take pride in its high immunization rates, there is still work to be done.
“To achieve higher rates in immunization, we must continue to share responsibility and foster and maintain partnership between healthcare workers and parents and guardians alike,” he said.
“Government is committed to this collaboration to protect the people of the Cayman Islands.”