With a vaccination programme that entails 90 percent coverage and above for the under five population, Guyana can boast of a near flawless vaccination programme.
In fact it is the view of Senior Minister of Public Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence that “if all or most of the diseases that plague us today could be prevented by vaccines, then Guyana would have no need to be anxious as a nation, because we would be protected.”
Moreover, Minister Lawrence has attributed
Guyana’s vaccination situation to “excellent vaccination coverage”.
Her remarks were forthcoming just in time for the observance of World Immunization Week which commences today. The observance will span the period April 24 – 30, 2018.
According to the World Health Organisation [WHO], World Immunization Day is aimed at highlighting the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. To do so, it noted that governments must invest in immunization efforts, advocates must make vaccines a priority, and people must get themselves and their families vaccinated.
Moreover, the goal of World Immunization Week 2018, WHO has noted “is to urge greater action on immunization around the world, with a particular focus on spotlighting the role that everyone can play in this effort, from donors to individuals.”
It has been with this in mind that Guyana has been making deliberate strides to retain a successful vaccination programme.
Minister Lawrence noted that it has been 16 years since the beginning of vaccination week in the Americas, and 41 years since the Expanded Programme on Immunization [EPI] started in Guyana.
“At the dawn of our Immunization programme, EPI as it is called, Guyana sought coverage primarily for its young children five years and under [from birth to their last dose], our health care workers worked tirelessly to vaccinate many children of all ethnic, socio-economic backgrounds,” said Minister Lawrence.
But the immunization programme has expanded over the years, even across the life cycle to encompass from the pregnant woman to the elderly, Minister Lawrence disclosed.
“Our focus has shifted to strengthening the defences of each member of the household, as we provide coverage for our most at risk groups,” said the Public Health Minister.
In fact, she disclosed that “in the last two years the Ministry has not relaxed” even in the fact of several reports of outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in neighbouring countries. Such reports, the Minister said, has instead spurred her Ministry into action which translated to “increase vaccinating coverage of our population triple fold.”
Reflecting on Guyana’s vaccination journey, Minister Lawrence said “some of us remember the time when Guyana was plagued with poliomyelitis, we know it as polio. We remember the crippled persons with debilitating paralysis…that was caused by a virus.”
But as recent as last year, she recalled that some citizens, for the first time, heard of diphtheria outbreaks in bordering countries. This infectious disease, the Minister explained, is known to cause symptoms including sore throat, fever, swollen glands and could be potentially deadly. Even more recently, Guyana was close to the threat of Yellow Fever. This condition is in fact an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Some of its symptoms include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
As she gave emphasis to Guyana’s sustained efforts, Minister Lawrence said, when it comes to coverage for the vaccine preventable diseases, such as Yellow Fever, “I am proud to say that this coverage extends to our military and armed forces, our teachers, health care workers, children and adolescents.”
Although there are many more vaccine preventable diseases that can threaten the nation, Minister Lawrence assured, “I am happy to tell you today that Guyana remains free from any of the above listed for the last 30 years on average because of our excellent vaccination coverage.”
This, she reiterated, is owing to the efforts of “our health care workers who work assiduously to reach communities so that we meet our targets for vaccines.”
Vaccination Week this year is being observed under the theme: ‘Strengthen your defence, get vaccinated.” This theme is especially appropriate, since, according to Minister Lawrence, “for the past year we have had an ardent focus on our borders and points of entry into Guyana.”
For this very reason, she informed that Guyana has embraced and strengthened both active and passive surveillance systems to keep the diseases that have infiltrated neighbouring countries like Brazil and Venezuela, at bay.
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