Local health care providers involved in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) are expected to partake in cross country campaigns targeting defaulters and hard to reach populations as observances for World Vaccine week begin today.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Public Health, Guyana has actively participated in the observances over the years and this year will be no different as several campaigns will be rolled out in the ten administrative regions.
These would include campaigns targeting defaulters and hard to reach populations with a special focus on remote regions in the hinterland and the engagement of schools through art, poetry and essay writing competitions, religious activities and walks.
The statement explained that health care providers will also vaccinate the general adult population and have simultaneous “in school” vaccinations countrywide, while also providing an opportunity for the public to give feedback on the programme and the ways in which immunisation in Guyana can be improved.
With an EPI policy that focuses on providing immunisation for all target populations in order to eliminate the occurrence pf vaccine preventable diseases, it is one of the most successful public health programmes in Guyana, with vaccination coverage of over 90% of all antigens given to the under-5 population, the statement said.
Additionally, the programme offers special provisions for special populations, such as children who live in orphanages and the elderly in senior homes and healthcare providers.
According to the statement, the EPI plays an integral role in the prevention of potentially vaccine preventable diseases in children 5 years and younger.
“It is necessary that all children under the age of 5 years old receive vaccines because they are susceptible for acquiring vaccine preventable diseases that can result in death.
They are the most vulnerable because their bodies have not developed an immune system that can prevent them from getting these diseases, hence the reason for vaccines,” the statement explained.
But while Guyana was awarded third place out of 75 countries for effective vaccine management in 2014, it has not been without its challenges, particularly due to Guyana’s unique terrain.
“Our primary health care providers are the faces of this programme and special mention must be made of their tireless contributions in making it a successes. Guyana as we know has a very unique terrain with at least 30% of our population living in the hinterland in regions 1, 7, 8 and 9,” the statement said. “The terrain of these regions contribute greatly to the challenges of this programme, from the many rivers of regions 1 and 8 to the mountains of regions 7 and 9.
The challenge of these regions is also due to the lack of infrastructure to support cold chain equipment which is a necessary component of the vaccination process,” it added.
The EPI programme currently administers vaccines for 17 antigens: whooping cough, measles, Poliomyelitis, Tuberculosis, Yellow Fever, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Mumps, Rubella, Haemophilus Influenza Type B, Pneumococcal, Meningococcal, Human Papilloma Virus, Varicella, Rota Virus and Pertussis.
Guyana will be joining the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America in observing Vaccination Week in the Americas beginning today and ending on April 30th, 2016.
Vaccination week observances have become one of the largest multi-national events, with all countries within Latin and the Caribbean participating, accounting for the vaccination of over 400 million people within the region over the last 12 years, the ministry said.
This year’s observances are being held under the theme, “Go for the Gold,” which the Ministry of Public Health has acknowledged as being “very fitting and having a very significant meaning” for Guyana as it prepares to celebrate its Golden Jubilee Year.