The Public Health Department will host a vaccination clinic for children at the Cayman Islands Hospital on Saturday.
The clinic is being held to mark Vaccination Week in the Americas.
The department is inviting parents to bring any child in need of vaccinations, including those with missed or outstanding doses, to the clinic between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday.
According to Caribbean Public Health Agency, known as CARPHA, the Caribbean region has vaccination cover of 95% or more.
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but entire communities. If you are vaccinated, you are less likely to become infected or infect others and your loved ones. That is why it is important that our region maintains its vaccination coverage of 95% or more, to ensure that children and other at-risk persons remain healthy,” said Dr. Virginia Asin-Oostburg, director of surveillance, disease prevention and control at CARPHA, in a press release.
CARPHA points out that immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions, and can prevent deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.
“The most effective way to prevent these life-threatening diseases or severe outcomes from the illnesses is through vaccination,” the organisation stated.
While the United States is currently dealing with its largest measles outbreak since the disease was declared eliminated there in 2000, Cayman and the Caribbean have remained measles-free since 1991.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on Wednesday that 695 cases of measles had been reported since Jan. 1 across 22 states. The high number of cases is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks – one in Washington state and two in New York that started in late 2018. The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest-lasting since 2000, according to the CDC, which urged parents to get their children vaccinated.
In light of the measles breakout in the US, earlier this month Cayman’s Public Health Department issued an alert, advising the local community to be on the lookout for symptoms of the disease.
HSA’s Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said in an April 12 statement that Cayman’s Public Health Department has acted quickly to strengthen its monitoring for potential cases of measles and rubella.
“This is critical,” Williams-Rodriguez said, “as while we are almost at the end of the winter tourist season, travellers from many different countries are consistently passing through the country’s borders.”
In addition to currently being measles-free, the Caribbean saw the eradication of endemic smallpox in 1971, polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015, CARPHA noted.
“The health of the general public improved drastically with the vaccinations that allowed children to survive because they no longer developed severe measles infections,” the health agency pointed out.
Asin-Oostburg said, “Immunisation protects future generations and saves your family time and money. Diseases that used to be common in the region can be prevented through routine childhood vaccines. We urge persons who have not immunised their children against vaccine-preventable diseases for their age [to] do so immediately, or they will be at risk of contracting these diseases.”
This year, Vaccination Week in the Americas is observed from April 20-27, with the slogan ‘Protect your community. Do your part.’
For more information on vaccinations at the Cayman Islands Hospital, contact 244-2648.