Remarks from Hon. Volda Lawrence Minister of Public Health on Vaccination Week in the Americas 2020
— Theme: Love. Protect. Trust, Get Vax
Even as fighting the spread of COVID -19 intensifies, many countries are also battling other outbreaks and epidemics. The Democratic Republic of Congo for example is currently battling the Ebola epidemic. In our hemisphere neighbouring Brazil and Venezuela are fighting measles and yellow fever (YF). Thankfully, Guyana remains free of these scourges including Polio, Diphtheria, Rubella and Neonatal tetanus. As we commemorate another ‘Vaccination Week’ we remind ourselves of our good fortune and take this as a national cue to stay on this path.
I would like to start there!
No Guyanese child or adult should die from anypreventable cause. Through vaccines we are guaranteed elimination of some of these causes robbing many of a sound health. According to UNICEF through sustained immunisation, the world is closer to eradicating polioglobally. Only Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain as polio-endemic countries.
Vaccination saved some 21.1 million lives from death due to measles between 2000-2017. Death due to measles dipped by 80 percent due directly to the global vaccination programme. We must celebrate these successes especially during Vaccination Week when we raise awareness about this medical intervention for people of all ages. Our noises must reverberate about its cost-effectiveness while simultaneously saving of millions of lives.
We must not be careless however by forgetting to focus on current needs and gaps while building on decades of tangible progress which is a legacy of the visionaries of the immunisation plan.
This year’s Vaccination Week we observe ‘Vaccination Week’ under the theme under the theme, ‘Love,
Trust, Protect, #Get Vax’ from today April 25th to May 2nd
The current COVID-19 global pandemic forces us to probe deeper into this year’s Vaccination Week theme.
Let’s expand on its significance.
Love- this is demonstrated when we ensure that our children, teens, young adults and elderly are immunised. Since there are diseases that affect all stages in life, there are also vaccines to prevent some of the diseases at different stages.
A local example of that love in Guyana is shown when our mothers walk miles from their homes to health facilities many times during their child’s first year of life to guarantee that their children are vaccinated.
It’s the love also that takes our health care workers each year on perilous outreaches in remote areas to administer vaccines to vulnerable populations. On the aspect of love, this discourse can become inexhaustive but in the context of COVID -19 it is that love for humanity that has prompted so many health-care workers in the public and private sectors across Guyana to keep providing the immunisation service, in spite of the known risks.
What about the trust? – How is this important as part of this year’s theme? Trust in Science over the decades has demonstrated the life-saving benefits of vaccines. Thetrust here highlighted, is the trust that scientists, governments, parents all around the world have in the power of vaccines.
This trust has led us to value the importance of protection! And here we explore the last word in this year’s theme, Protect!
Immunisation protects the future generation and those whom we love. We protect those dear to us because quite often prevention is better than cure. In public health we have come to appreciate that sometimes there is no cure so it’s better to prevent all together.
We are proud of some of our own recent achievements in the field of immunizations. In 2019 we reported over 90% vaccination coverage for children a year old. For BCG, there was a 96% coverage; Measles had 91%, DTP and Yellow fever 99%, Polio 97% and PCV13, 98%.
Moving forward, the Ministry of Public Health and its partners are committed to improving access to vaccine and leaving no one behind. Although this year’s vaccination week cannot be celebrated by elaborate marches and mass vaccination campaigns because of physical distancing, we will still ensure that everyone who needs vaccines is protected.
Let me thank everyone, including our very hard-working MCH staff, who has a critical role in the delivery of thecountry’s immunization services to help keep Guyana safe from vaccine preventable diseases.
The work of the Public Private Partnerships and all our international partners must be highly
commended as their perennial priceless support hasbeen a fillip and a boon to the program.
Let us Love, Trust and get protected by our vaccines!