Fellow citizens and residents,
This week is Vaccination Week in the Americas.
This is a regional health awareness week celebrated every year during the last week of April to promote equity and access to vaccination. From April 22 to 29, 2023, Saint Kitts and Nevis together with the countries and territories of the Region of the Americas, will celebrate the 21st annual Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) and the 12th World Immunization Week (WIW) under the theme: “Get up-to-date. #EachVaccineCounts”.
The overall aim of the week of activities is to raise awareness of the importance of immunization and to vaccinate hard-to-reach segments of our populations including indigenous peoples and migrants.
This year’s call to action: “Get up-to-date. #EachVaccineCounts” provides an opportunity to reinforce messages about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, benefits provided by vaccination, demonstrate the importance of receiving all doses of all vaccines included in our national immunization schedule and to share the successes of our Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). In Saint Kitts and Nevis, this year’s VWA campaign will focus on:
- Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV): re-sensitization of the public about its benefits in protecting individuals and loved ones.
- Locating and immunizing those persons who were difficult to reach and failed to receive vaccines in 2022.
- Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine: sensitizing farmers about the importance of this vaccine for their healthy living.
Vaccines are safe and save lives! In St. Kitts & Nevis, all vaccines offered under the national EPI program have been procured through Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) revolving Fund. Vaccines purchased through this route meet internationally recommended quality, safety, and efficacy standards for their development, manufacture, transportation, and control.
Our local Ministry of Health (MOH) ensures adequate storage, distribution, and correct administration of all vaccines. Vaccines are safe and prevent vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs).
Some of us have never seen some of these vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), and some parents probably think that there is no real harm in infection, hence is no need for urgency in keeping vaccine appointments or consenting to vaccinate our children. Polio has been eliminated from the Caribbean region since 1982. However, recently two unvaccinated individuals with no travel history presented to health facilities with paralysis of limbs and were tested and diagnosed with polio in New York City and in Peru.
Today, the region of the Americas is facing new measles outbreaks after it was declared measles-free in 2016. Between 2020 and 2021, the vaccination coverage rates of measles, mumps & rubella vaccine (MMR 1 & MMR 2) have decreased in this region and several children are susceptible to measles.
In 2022, in Saint Kitts and Nevis, the MMR1 coverage rate was 95% and the MMR2 coverage rate was 93%. The aim of the public health team is to target the defaulters during this VWA campaign to increase the coverage rate to 95% and above. The measles and polio vaccines are essential for the protection of our children and loved ones.
The Ministry of Health is appealing to parents to do all in their power to ensure that their infants and children are vaccinated according to schedule. Infants are at the highest risk for contracting communicable diseases since their immune system is not fully developed at birth.
Vaccines help the immune system to respond to and defend itself against germs. Vaccines protect your infants by building up their natural defenses. It is of utmost importance that your infants be vaccinated against communicable diseases to develop immunity early and protect their lives.
All vaccines on the national schedule are available and accessible to everyone. I urge you all to get up-to-date information on each vaccine and get up to date with your vaccine schedule and that of your child, children, and loved ones. #EachVaccineCounts.