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Vaccination Week

Hon Mark Scotland, MLA

Message from the Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture

The Hon. Mark Scotland

Vaccination Week in the Americas 2010 - Reaching Everyone

24 April - 1 May

Thanks to modern vaccines and vigilant, committed public health professionals, Cayman is largely free from devastating diseases such as polio, neonatal tetanus, rubella, mumps, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, and tuberculosis.

Indeed, vaccines are central to preventing contagious childhood diseases, and immunisation is without doubt one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping our children healthy.

Locally, our Public Health Department runs a relevant and modern vaccination programme, covering between 90 and 95 percent of all infants and some 97 percent of children entering primary school.

All vaccines used in the Cayman Islands are obtained from reputable manufacturers and are administered in strict compliance with guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the regional Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

Aware of the fact that any successful immunisation programme must continually update and adapt, we recently introduced two new vaccines to the childhood vaccination schedule: The rotavirus vaccine protects against severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration caused by the rotavirus; and the pneumococcal vaccine protects against serious infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, and blood poisoning, as well as ear infections caused by bacteria known as streptococcus pneumoniae.

Their steadfast efforts have earned our public health officials the 2009 Pan American Health Organization's Caribbean Sub-region Surveillance Award - an accolade that justly acknowledges them as being the best among 28 Caribbean nations.

Yet even as we celebrate such notable successes, we must stay on our guard: Cayman hosts over 100 nationalities as residents, with many more - visitors as well as returning residents - arriving daily from all over the world. It is therefore evident that even when we manage to eliminate some diseases locally, we will always be vulnerable to reintroduction.

Thus as Health Minister, I fully support our Public Health Department as it strives to give every child access to age-appropriate vaccines. My ministry will also continue to facilitate the introduction of any new vaccines recommended by WHO and PAHO.

However, while it is government's role to provide the necessary resources for continued success of the programme, I remind you that parents too have a major responsibility. As such, I ask you to join our country's efforts this Vaccination Week - observed from 24 April to 1 May - by taking the simple step of checking your children's immunization cards. As the international immunisation awareness campaign slogan states: Love them, protect them, immunise them.

So, for their sake, ensure their inoculations are up to date, because vaccination is truly a primary act of love.

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver