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Pan American Health Organization set to vaccinate 15 million children

Pan American Health Organization set to vaccinate 15 million children

The United Nations World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional office for the Americas is set to launch the region’s first-ever Vaccination Week, with 19 countries mobilizing to immunize more than 15 million children under 5 and 2.7 million women of childbearing age.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said it organized the Vaccination Week to prevent neonatal tetanus, maintain measles interruption – no cases have been reported in the region for six months – and to give impetus to efforts to end rubella. PAHO also aims to maintain polio eradication, which was officially declared in 1994.

“This is a Pan American initiative aimed at achieving equity in vaccination, so that the most disadvantaged get protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. Thus, they will grow up and have the chance to develop to their full potential and enjoy a better life.” PAHO’s Acting Chief of the Immunization Unit Héctor Izurieta said.

With the overarching goal of vaccinating 95 per cent of the continent’s children, some 200,000 health workers will travel to border areas, isolated communities, and marginal urban populations to reach those who have never been immunized or who have not completed their series of vaccines, according to PAHO.

The workers will focus on vaccinating groups with low immunization rates in areas considered “pockets of susceptibility,” where an imported case of measles could trigger an outbreak, Gina Tambini, PAHO’s Manager of the Family and Community Health Area said.

Activities have been planned in each participating country but also in key border areas. Peru, Bolivia and Brazil have scheduled a joint effort in a remote border area in the Amazon and health authorities from all three countries will visit border villages and see health workers off as they embark on boats to vaccinate children.

PAHO said it is collaborating with the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support the countries to make the campaign a success. The organizers hope that the Vaccination Week will become an annual Pan American and Ibero-American event.