Health Minister Applauds Nation’s Success in Immunization

Authored by: Llonella Gilbert
Source: Bahamas Information Services
Date: April 26, 2016


NASSAU, Bahamas — Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Perry Gomez said that he believes The Bahamas has already achieved Gold Medals in its journey towards immunizing its citizens so as to prevent and control the spread of vaccine preventable diseases.

“Nonetheless, we in The Bahamas are now working on improving the performance time in our race toward the removal and elimination of all challenges where possible so as to prevent the introduction of new and/or resurgence of these old infections and communicable diseases,” Dr. Gomez said. He was addressing the official opening at the Flamingo Gardens Clinic, Monday, April 25, 2016, of the National Immunization Cold Storage Facility that will ensure that vaccines are stored at the appropriate temperatures to maintain their potency until given to clients or patients.

During the official opening of the storage facility, The Bahamas as a member of the World Health and Pan American Health Organizations (WHO/PAHO) participated with more than 180 countries and territories around the world in celebrating the fifth year of World Immunization or Vaccine Week in the Americas.

Dr. Gomez said, “While the celebration of Vaccination Week in the Americas began some five years ago, the initiative to improve the immunization status of citizens in Member Countries began some 13 years ago with more than 580 million people having been vaccinated.

“The objectives of this Vaccination Week of celebration which began on Saturday 23 of April and ends on the 30th April 2016 are to:

  • Advance equity and improve access to vaccination for people of all ages through outreach activities, to the under-served and marginalized communities.
  • To increase vaccination coverage to all citizens.
  • To raise awareness of how immunization saves lives and to keep the topic on the political agenda.
  • To promote the transition from child to family immunization and
  • To serve as a platform for integrated public health activities.”

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Go for the Gold”; and the Health Minister explained that the country began its journey towards the Gold Medal in immunizing its citizens so as to prevent and control the spread of vaccine preventable diseases in 1979, with:

  • Diphtheria Pertussis and Tetanus coverage of barely 30 percent; for 2015 estimated coverage was 95 percent.
  • In 1979 our Polio coverage was 27 percent, and in 2015 it was 95 percent.
  • In 1982 Measles coverage was 62 percent, and MMR coverage to date is 94 percent.
  • In 1994, Tetanus coverage among the pregnant women population was 71 percent, and in 2015 was 100 percent.

Dr. Gomez said, “By focusing sustained efforts on infants under the age of one-year-old, as well as the one-four-years-old school children and pregnant women, we were able to target the most at-risk groups requiring protection and reducing the possible re-introduction of old and new Communicable Diseases.”

He explained that in regards to the recommendation of the (WHO and PAHO) to Member Countries to advance equity and improve access to vaccination for people of all ages on an annual basis, the Government of The Bahamas has:

  • Ensured that funding for the purchase of vaccines in the sum of $5,195,339.00 for the period 2006-2015 was made available to purchase vaccines through the partnership and support of our PAHO Representatives and distributed to Public Health Clinics and the participating private providers throughout The Bahamas.
  • Secondly, on every Island and Cay, vaccines except for those selected vaccines (e.g. yellow fever and Hepatitis A) given to persons traveling abroad are made availableThis is called equitable access.
  • The Bahamas has continued partnering with stakeholders in the airline and mail boat industries, the Public Hospitals Authority and the various brokers to ensure that vaccines are delivered in a safe manner with focus on maintaining the “Cold Chain.”