Saving Lives: Benefits of Vaccination

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 27 2015. “Recent outbreaks of measles in North America have reemphasized the importance of maintaining vaccination coverage at 95% or more in all countries in the Caribbean Community” remarked Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), in recognition of Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) April 25 to May 2, 2015.  He also urged Member States to continue to increase their efforts to keep children and other at-risk groups healthy by getting them vaccinated.  He added that if people are not vaccinated, they could become infected from a traveler or while traveling themselves.

Though vaccination has led to a dramatic decline in the number of cases of several infectious diseases in the Caribbean, it has been estimated that around 10% of the population has not been immunized with the most relevant vaccines.

Health programmes in the Region provide vaccines against life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles and influenza. These vaccines have protected families from illness and saved thousands of lives.  As a result of high vaccination rates, countries in the Caribbean region are in the forefront in controlling and eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases.  The Region was the first in the world to eradicate smallpox (in 1971) and to eliminate polio (in 1994) and has not had any endemic transmission of measles since 2002.  Other vaccine-preventable diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, have also been substantially reduced throughout the hemisphere.  New vaccines such as Rotavirus or HPV vaccine have been successfully included in the vaccination schedule of many of the countries of the Caribbean Region. 

“CARPHA continues to promote and support regional strategic vaccination planning.  The Agency is engaged in monitoring activities such as laboratory surveillance and evaluation.” states Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, Director of Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control.  He went on to say that the Agency is also “actively working with partners regionally and internationally to achieve timely, complete, regular and accurate surveillance for existing communicable diseases with active case finding, to ensure that sustained local transmission of disease such as measles and rubella does not occur following importation.” 

Notes to the Editor

Measles has been considered eliminated from the Region since 2002, due to the absence of endemic transmission of the disease. However, Members States remain vigilant as the importation of measles and rubella is likely because of high international travel to the Region.

Although the last confirmed polio case in the Caribbean was in 1982, countries of the Caribbean region remain at risk for the importation of wild Poliovirus and circulating Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus (cVDPV). In keeping with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, CARPHA, along with PAHO and Caribbean countries, has been making efforts to strengthen surveillance for polio as well as improve the population’s immunity.

The 13th Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) is celebrated from April 25th to May 2nd, 2015. The regional slogan for VWA 2015 is “Boost your power! Get vaccinated!”


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