Residents of Barbados and the entire Caribbean are being urged to get their appropriate vaccinations as efforts continue to prevent illness, disability and death in the region.

And, persons planning international travel for mass events, including the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil are advised to check with national immunisation authorities to determine possible vaccine update requirements.

This call has come from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization???s Office for Caribbean Program Coordination (PAHO/WHO CPC) in light of the 12th Vaccination Week in the Americas, which takes place from Monday, April 28 to Saturday, May 3. Coincidentally, World Immunisation Week commenced on Thursday, April 24 and will run until Wednesday, April 30.

During Vaccination Week of the Americas, members of national vaccination teams will be hosting a series of events under the slogan Vaccination: Your best shot. There will be several activities including community outreach campaigns at worksites and ???walk-in??? immunisation days at health clinics, to provide members of the public with the extra convenience of obtaining vaccinations without having to make appointments on the specified occasion.

PAHO/WHO Caribbean Programme Coordinator, Dr. Ernest Pate, has acknowledged that the Caribbean has been quite successful in reducing the levels of vaccine preventable death and diseases over the past two decades, but cautions that such gains may be eroded if significant numbers of individuals fail to vaccinate themselves or their children.

He stressed that although the majority of parents today have had limited, or no opportunity, to witness the effects of vaccine preventable diseases, they still need to be aware of the potential danger.

The WHO estimates that while vaccination currently averts approximately two to three million deaths each year on a global scale, an estimated 22.6 million infants worldwide do not receive the basic vaccines and many adults also remain at risk.

In the Caribbean, the approximately 120, 000 children born each year could be susceptible to vaccine preventable diseases if not adequately protected, and experience has demonstrated that these diseases can re-emerge among unvaccinated groups if complacency sets in or if people fail to adhere to established schedules.

Some vaccine-preventable diseases for which immunisation may prevent illness, disability or death are diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, tetanus and rubella which are traditionally included in childhood immunisation schedules.

In addition, the seasonal influenza vaccine is provided in most countries on an annual basis, primarily targeting persons who are at a greater than average risk of exposure to the disease or its complications. These include health workers, pregnant women, and the elderly, as well as institutionalised and chronically ill persons.

Furthermore, among the newer additions to some regional vaccination programmes is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine which mainly targets young adolescent females to offer protection from cervical cancer.

Author: PAHO/Sharifa Medford

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