Vaccination Week in the Americas: A Shared Responsibility Print E-mail
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Thursday, 25 April 2013 00:00

Hon. Pablo Marin witnessing oral administration of vaccineThe health of Belize and Guatemala as wells as the rest of the Americas turned for better prospects on Wednesday with the launch of Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) in the Adjacency Zone between Benque Viejo and Melchor de Mencos. It comes as the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), in the eleventh celebration of VWA joined forces with Governments and organizations in a widely anticipated and all encompassing effort to immunize citizens against a host of life threatening diseases.

In a joint ceremony, which featured bands from both Benque Viejo and Melchor de Mencos, citizens from both local and international groups joined to discover what has been achieved thus far in the area of immunization. Also, present were a large number of United Nations Officials and Experts.

Belize’s Minister of Health Hon. Pablo Marin was present today in the adjacency zone. He told the large gathering that it was an occasion to celebrate the achievement of immunization in Belize.

“Belize can boast immunization rates confirmed by international monitors of over ninety seven percent even with our large rural population”

While confident about the progress, Minister Marin said that we need to continue to remind every parent, teacher and health care provider that better can be done in reaching children in the indigenous communities, in small rural villages and in border areas; where vigilance has to be maintained.

“The challenge we face in Belize and Guatemala, we face together; health care providers of either side of the border already work closely together on many public health issues including immunization,” said Belize’s Minister of Health.

The events held near the border of Guatemala today brought together officials from the highest levels in the Ministries of Health from both countries. There was re-assurance from Guatemala that work with Belize will continue in the areas of health.

Indeed, the Minister of Health of Guatemala Doctor Jorge Villavicencio expressed appreciation to the Government of Belize for bringing a strategic union in the areas of health with his country. At the same time, he reported that Guatemala has increased investments in public health. Villavicencio also said that vaccines talk the language of peace for vulnerable groups like women and children.

In a message from and on behalf of Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, Robert Valent, the United Nations Coordinator, stated that there is no greater gift than having a healthy start in life. In a World where some eighty percent of children are immunized and where windows of opportunities have been opened to end polio forever, protective vaccines are still not reaching children in poverty areas, said Valent. He urged that we must break down barriers and form an alliance of partners to deliver vaccines to those who need them and to thus protect our common future.

The recently elected Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Doctor Carissa F. Etienne joined with the message that there have been tremendous progress in the eradication of some diseases like Poliomyelitis but the populations cannot remain complacent. According to Doctor Etienne, large areas where immunizations efforts are not maintained constantly and with high level coverage are bound to suffer from a return of diseases. The Director of PAHO reminded all that vaccination is a joint responsibility, where parents need to take their children to health centers, to meet the health workers there, and get the life saving vaccines.

Vaccination Week in the America’s, started on April 20th and will continue to April 27th, 2013. The theme for this year is “Vaccination: a shared responsibility”

At the same time as today’s launching of Vaccination Week in the Americas, some one hundred and eighty countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and others are also observing the second annual World Immunization Week under the theme: “Protect Your World. Get Vaccinated.” This follows a World Immunization Week resolution, which was approved at the Sixth Fifty World Health Assembly in 2012, encouraging members to allocate the last week of April as World Immunization Week.

According to the World Health Organization, immunization saves some two to three million lives every year at the Global Level. The plan is to target some forty four million persons against a range of diseases such as poliomyelitis, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, measles, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, influenza, yellow fever, diarrhea caused by rotavirus, bacterial pneumonia, the human papilloma virus and others.

Vaccination has been described as a safe and effective for protecting a person or child against a host of transmissible diseases. Thus, in a life changing moment, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, the Special Envoy for Women and Children, took the opportunity on Wednesday to join with health officials and experts from Belize, Guatemala and other Countries in the symbolic administration of vaccines to several well behaved babies.