Wed | Dec 8, 2021

Contain spread of vaccine-preventable diseases - PAHO boss

Published:Wednesday | April 28, 2021 | 12:16 AM
PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne.
PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne.

MEMBERS OF the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have been called on to take steps to contain the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and rubella, while simultaneously undertaking coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations.

Director Dr Carissa Etienne said this is imperative as uncontrolled outbreaks of measles and other preventable diseases “could further stretch our health systems to their breaking point”.

She was speaking during Monday’s virtual launch of activities for the 19th commemoration of PAHO’s Vaccination Week in the Americas, being held from April 26 to 30 under the theme ‘Vaccines Bring Us Closer for a Healthier and Safer Future’.

Dr Etienne said COVID-19 has caused significant disruptions to immunisation programmes in the countries across the Americas, noting that “our health systems are stretched and, in many places, it has been difficult to access essential services like vaccinations”.

She pointed out that while many countries have acted quickly and provided services outside of the traditional healthcare, consequent on the numerous individuals contracting COVID-19 and getting sick, “hundreds of thousands of children have missed out on their routine immunisations against diseases like measles, tetanus and whooping cough”.

“Thankfully, decades of immunisation successes have prepared the region for this very moment. The Americas has a long-standing and exemplary tradition as vaccine champions, having succeeded in eliminating polio, measles and rubella,” the director added.

Dr Etienne noted that PAHO, through its Revolving Fund for Vaccines facility, delivered more than 27 million doses of influenza vaccines across the region in 2020, in addition to millions to protect youngsters against childhood diseases through routine immunisations.

She also pointed out that this year, “We have [to date] delivered more than 4.2 million doses of COVID vaccines to more than 29 countries in our region,” adding that “we are just getting started”.

Dr Etienne emphasised that citizens of member countries “have a collective responsibility” to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and help in protecting others with safe and effective vaccines.

“So do your part by getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it is your turn, and make sure your children receive their childhood vaccinations as well,” she urged.