Cayman Islands Premier’s message – Vaccination Week in the Americas
In line with countries around the region, the Cayman Islands is commemorating Vaccination Week in the Americas with the theme: #GetVax to celebrate a healthy tomorrow!
The event is being celebrated from 22 to 29 April 2017 and is an annual hemispheric event endorsed by the Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization.
As Minister for Health, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of vaccination to prevent deadly and debilitating diseases. During the past several decades the simple and cost-effective process of immunisation has undoubtedly saved countless lives.
Vaccination Week in the Americas began in 2003 in a bid to fight the scourge of potentially fatal illnesses affecting our people. Since then, more than 640 million individuals of all ages have been vaccinated.
The annual week of awareness also provides a highly visible platform to help people understand the importance of immunisation and to keep vaccines on the forefront of political agendas.
Life-threatening diseases that vaccines can prevent include polio, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, rubella, pneumonia, rotavirus diarrhoea and tetanus. Many of these conditions were commonplace amongst the older generation of the Cayman Islands and their fore-parents.
With the advent of widespread vaccination, we have, for the most part, been able to prevent such illnesses. Fortunately, our younger people don’t have to worry about contracting or overcoming such conditions, which all too often took loved ones to an early grave.
In recent years, other vaccines that have been developed protect against the likes of meningitis, influenza, as well as cancer of the cervix.
I must commend our Public Health Department, private sector paediatricians, and the many dedicated health professionals across these islands who have worked so hard to ensure that vaccines are available and administered to our population.
We take pride in the fact that the Cayman Islands offers free vaccines to all children, with more than 90 per cent of infants being immunised. While this is a significant achievement, I would like to see all children vaccinated, to ensure that everybody is protected.
Therefore, I take this occasion to remind parents that health workers cannot achieve that goal alone. It is also the responsibility of mothers, fathers and guardians to ensure children are given the vaccines that will protect them from communicable diseases throughout their lives.
Please check the immunisation records of your children, consult relevant health professionals, and get all immunisations up-to-date.
Help us maintain the Cayman Islands as a regional leader in the elimination and control of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The region was the first to eradicate smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1991. The last endemic case of indigenous measles was reported in 2002, and the Caribbean itself has been free of indigenous measles for more than 20 years.
Indigenous rubella (German measles) has also been eliminated from the Americas, with the last case reported in 2009. Incidence of other vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis has decreased significantly.
As this year’s theme indicates, please get vaccinated to ensure a healthy tomorrow.
IMAGE: From video Vaccination Week in the Americas