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Vaccines have 'no link to autism'

Published:Monday | February 16, 2015 | 11:06 PMRichard Mitchell
Rudolph Brown/ Photographer<\n>Dr Fenton Ferguson, (left) Minister of Health, in discussion with Dr Kevin Harvey, permanent secretary of the ministry, at the launch of a mass immunisation campaign press conference at Jamaica House, yesterday.

Following new and public cases of measles in the United States and Canada, the Ministry of Health, yesterday launched a campaign aimed at preventing the disease from affecting the island's population.

Speaking at the launch of the Measles Prevention Campaign, Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, said that while Jamaica's immunisation rates in 2013 stood at 94 per cent, it was important to remain vigilant in the current climate.

"Many countries of the world still have annual cases of vaccine preventable diseases; these can easily spread to other countries through international travel," the health minister said. He continued, "Jamaica, a well established tourist destination has to remain vigilant and therefore do all that we can to reduce any possible impact on the population."

The Minister used the occasion to praise the effectiveness of vaccines and dismissed fears associated with them.

"The medical evidence indicates that immunisation continues to save many lives worldwide, despite the many myths and fears surrounding vaccination," Ferguson said.

Responding to concerns about the link between vaccinations and autism, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse also dismissed those fears. "I have to state categorically though, that the association (with Autism) is unfounded; this has been scientifically proven," said Dr Bullock DuCasse. She went on to say that the campaign would work to educate the public on vaccines and change this negative perception.

Meanwhile, the health minister has attributed the eradication of various viruses and diseases in Jamaica, to immunisation.

Polio, a virus that killed thousands, was last detected in 1982, while the last case of measles was in 1991. In 1995 diphtheria dissipated and the last case of rubella (German measles) was back in 2000. The Ministry of Health also reports that it had its last case of new-born tetanus in 2001.

The 2015 Measles Prevention Campaign will run from February 16 to May 8, 2015 and will focus on distribution of the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine. The ministry emphasised that it continued to provide the MMR and other vaccines free of cost in the public health sector.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread mostly by coughing and sneezing. The MMR vaccination, developed in the 1971 is known to prevent the virus.