Health Minister John Boyce has stressed the importance of immunisation to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases in Barbados.

Speaking at a church service on Sunday at the Christ Church Parish Church to mark the start of Vaccine Week of the Americas, the Minister stated that immunisation was one of the most important advances in public health, second only to clean water, when estimating the number of lives saved over the past 50 years.

The Ministry of Health, he said, was committed to ensuring that every child had access to immunisation. Records for 2015 showed that 97 per cent of infants had been immunised against polio; 96 per cent against measles, mumps and rubella; and over 98 per cent against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, pneumonia and hepatitis.

Mr. Boyce urged parents to be guided only by reputable vaccine authorities such as the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations International Children???s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

???Millions of dollars are invested every year in vaccine research and development to ensure that only safe, reliable and effective vaccines are administered to children, adolescents and adults worldwide.

???Every child has the right to good health. Let us all commit to the elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases by making sure our children are fully immunised,??? the Health Minister said.

Mr. Boyce disclosed that there were 14 antigens against vaccine-preventable diseases in Barbados??? routine immunisation schedule, with the HPV vaccine being the last to be introduced two years ago for protection against cervical cancer in women and other genital cancers in both women and men.

He further noted that in 2015, the Americas region, which includes Barbados, became the first in the world to be declared free of endemic transmission of rubella, a contagious viral disease that can cause multiple birth defects.

This made rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), the third and fourth vaccine-preventable diseases to be eliminated from the Americas, following the regional eradication of small pox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

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