The Cayman Islands and several other members of the Pan American Health Organization are marking the 15th anniversary of Vaccination Week in the Americas and the 40th anniversary of the Expanded Program on Immunization.

Vaccination Week, which runs through April 29, marks one of the biggest achievements in disease elimination in the Western Hemisphere. The week’s theme and social media campaign is “#GetVax to celebrate a healthy tomorrow.”

On Saturday, the Cayman Islands Public Health Department will hold a free clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for all children who need vaccinations. Adults who need tetanus boosters and healthcare workers requiring vaccines may also attend.

Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, acting medical officer of health, said Cayman “offers a rigorous vaccination program. Our schedule includes procurement of vaccines approved by PAHO. All vaccines used in the Cayman Islands are safe and are administered in accordance with guidelines from the World Health Organization and PAHO.”

Nurse Angela Graham, manager of Cayman’s Expanded Program on Immunization, said in a press release, “As a matter of priority, we will continue to promote vaccination through advocacy, education and communication activities during this week.”

Since Vaccination Week in the Americas began in 2003, more than 240 million people of all ages have been vaccinated. Several life-threatening diseases – including polio, diphtheria, measles, rubella, pneumonia and tetanus – have been eradicated due to vaccines and medical breakthroughs.

Vaccinations in the Caribbean helped to eradicate smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1991.

The last endemic case of indigenous measles was reported in 2002. The last documented case of rubella in the Americas came in 2009.

“There are still some children who do not complete their vaccine schedule, thus leaving themselves and other vulnerable groups at risk,” said Ms. Graham. “We are encouraging parents to make and keep appointments with healthcare providers to ensure their child is up-to-date on all shots.”

Current immunization schedule

The current immunization schedule prescribes that by the age of 15 months, children should have the following vaccines:

  • Three doses of hepatitis B; (at birth, six weeks and nine months)
  • One dose of BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin – tuberculosis vaccine); (at six weeks)
  • Three doses of rotavirus; (six weeks, four months and six months)
  • Three doses of the combined DT&P (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) and Hib (haemophilus influenza type b) at two, four and six months)
  • Three doses pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar) at two, four and six months
  • One dose of varicella (chickenpox) and a booster of pneumococcal (at 12 months)
  • One dose of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella); and a booster dose of combined DT&P and Hib (at 15 months)
  • A second dose of MMR is administered at age 18 months.

Children also need booster doses of combined DT&P and IPV and a second dose of Varicella (chicken pox) at school entry (four to five years). For children six months and older and all adults, an annual influenza vaccine is recommended.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is offered to girls in Year 7 in the public schools with parental consent. Girls older than 12 are also offered this vaccine with parental consent if they did not get the vaccine in Year 7.

In addition to childhood immunization, vaccines to prevent serious infectious diseases for adults are also available, including boosters for tetanus and diphtheria, vaccines against shingles, as well as the annual influenza vaccine.

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