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Posted: Thursday 13 July, 2023 at 2:03 PM

CMO Laws calls for kids to be vaccinated in light of MMR/Polio in the Americas

By: Staff Reporter,

    …HPV vaccination rate remains a concern


    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - DESPITE the high vaccination rates for Mumps, Measles, Rubella (MMR 1&2) and Polio, health officials in St Kitts and Nevis are reminding parents to ensure that their children are fully vaccinated for those and other childhood diseases, in light of the growing threat of them returning within Americas.


    That call comes against the backdrop of the Americas region reporting one case of Polio in Peru and 207 cases of Mumps in the United States.


    During a press briefing to promote Vaccination Week back in April, officials of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) raised concerns that because the region had seen a decline in vaccination rate, more specifically for MMR doses, they are concerned that it would give rise to the return of vaccine preventable diseases.


    As previously reported by this publication, Dr. Margherita Ghiselli explained that when they looked at the entire Caribbean, it was found that one in 10 children was not fully vaccinated during the height of the pandemic.


    “...we find that of the more than 11,000 children younger than one year who live in the Caribbean, almost one in 10 did not receive all of their vaccine doses,” she said.
    Health Minister Dr. Terrance Drew had raised similar concerns during his Vaccination Week Address in April, noting that more education is needed to ensure that all are covered.


    “Some of us have never seen some of these vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs), and some parents probably think that there is no real harm in infection, hence there is no need for urgency in keeping vaccine appointments or consenting to vaccinate our children. Polio has been eliminated from the Caribbean region since 1982. However, recently, two unvaccinated individuals with no travel history presented to health facilities with paralysis of limbs and were tested and diagnosed with Polio in New York City and in Peru,” Dr. Drew said in his Vaccination Week address.


    In a conversation with SKNVibes News, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hazel Laws reminded that the Federation continues to report high coverage rates for MMR, well into the 90’s. But she lamented the reality that many countries within the Americas region remain below the 95 percent threshold recommended by PAHO.


    Dr. Laws explained that the declining rate of MMR vaccination has been a trend seen over the last decade and it was no secret that both PAHO and UNICEF have been reporting declining rates.


    She however stressed that “COVID exacerbated the decline, but it is seen pre-covid”. 


    Going a bit further, she revealed that the coverage rate for Polio in the Americas region saw 20 countries falling below the 95 percent target, noting that St. Kitts and Nevis was not mentioned within those numbers.


    The CMO called on the media to do its part in ensuring that the public is properly educated on the importance of all vaccinations. 


    The Ministry of Health is pushing for more children, especially girls, to receive the HPV vaccine which helps in preventing cervical cancer.


    Rolled out at the end of 2019, the HPV vaccination campaign was impacted by the COVID pandemic. But it is also being challenged by the fact that children need the approval of their parents to receive a shot, unlike the MMR and Polio Shots.  


    During the Vaccination Week, the Ministry of Health targeted the re-sensitization of the public about its benefits in protecting individuals and loved ones against HPV; locating and immunizing those persons who were difficult to reach and failed to receive vaccines in 2022; and  sensitizing farmers on the importance of this vaccine for their healthy living of Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine.


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