Vaccination Week reached 40 Million in 35 countries

An estimated 40 million children and adults throughout the Western Hemisphere received vaccines during the first regionwide Vaccination Week in the Americas, held April 24-30 in 35 countries of the Americas.

Spearheaded by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and UNICEF, the week-long initiative reached out to the region's most remote areas and vulnerable populations, offering protection against dangerous childhood diseases such as polio, measles and neonatal tetanus.

Thousands of health workers and volunteers traveled to isolated areas, border zones and indigenous communities to take vaccines to children who in many cases had never been vaccinated or who had not completed their vaccine series. Women of childbearing age and the elderly also were priority targets of the campaign.

PAHO Director Mirta Roses traveled to Haiti for the initiative's official regional launch. In a kickoff ceremony in the town of Fond Parisien, near the Dominican border, Roses noted that millions of children and adults in Latin America and the Caribbean had not previously benefited from immunization.

"In an age when diseases can easily cross borders, these numbers are dangerous and these children are at risk," she said.

Nils Kastberg, UNICEF regional director for the Americas, who participated in the Haiti launch, added: "Despite emerging threats from new diseases, it's common diseases like measles and neonatal tetanus that remain the real child killers, taking thousands of young lives every week across the world. This campaign drives home the reality that immunization for all is a prerequisite to give every child the opportunity to survive and thrive."

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This article is abstracted under an agreement with the Pan American Health Organization.

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