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Guard against preventable diseases, says PAHO’s director


Guard against preventable diseases, says PAHO’s director
PAHO Director, Dr Carissa Etienne - FP

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Director of the Pan America Health Organisation (PAHO) Dr Carissa Etienne has warned the Caribbean is at high risk of new and re-emerging outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases

During her weekly media briefing yesterday, Etienne said PAHO ‘s technical advisory group on vaccine presentable diseases had reported that the region was “facing an impending crisis around routine vaccination” and insisted that ongoing attention must be given “as a priority” to sustaining and strengthening the region’s immunisation and other essential health programmes.

“Declining immunisation coverage rates accompanied by loosening or cessation of  public health and social measures will predictably result in increases in vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, whooping cough, tetanus,” Etienne said.

She pointed out that the region of the Americas, which includes the Caribbean, had for many years boasted the highest coverage in immunisation and through this had managed to stop the transmission of  many of those vaccination-preventable diseases.

“It is true that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put an additional strain on the national expanded programmes of immunisation and the national health care systems, at the same time deflecting considerable resources to the emergency response operation. It is essential that health care authorities and citizens take very seriously their access and ensuring that we have high coverage for our immunisation services, else we are at a risk of losing the gains we have made.

Etiennne reported an increase in COVID-19 infections in some countries of the Americas with 700 000 new cases and 13 000 COVID-related deaths being reported over the last week, following two weeks of decline. Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic were named among those countries where cases were rising.

However, Etiennne said the “good news” was that vaccinations continued to pick up as 48 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean had been fully immunised against COVID-19. (GC)