More than 640 million people have been vaccinated in the Region since 2003. PAHO's initiative has contributed to eliminating measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, and keeping the Americas free of polio.
Washington, D.C., 20 April 2017 (PAHO/WHO) - More than 60 million people will be vaccinated against a series of dangerous diseases during the 15th Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA), the largest immunization initiative of the continent. Coordinated by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), VWA celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year, and runs from April 22 to 29.
The slogan for 2017's campaign is "#GetVax to celebrate a healthy tomorrow," encouraging people and their families to get vaccinated today and enjoy good health tomorrow. It highlights vaccines that offer protection against highly contagious, debilitating and potentially deadly diseases. The characters of Sesame Street illustrate the 2017 campaign poster, which notes that vaccination is "An act of love."
"During these past 15 years, we have demonstrated that vaccination is one of the most powerful strategies to prevent diseases and save lives," PAHO's Director Carissa F. Etienne said. "PAHO is committed to continue working closely with the countries to immunize the entire population and facilitate the introduction of new vaccines at affordable prices," she added.
In 2015, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome were eliminated in the Region and in 2016, country efforts helped achieve measles elimination. Vaccination against these diseases continues to help minimize the risk of importing these diseases into a country in the Region. Furthermore, millions of people have been vaccinated to keep the western hemisphere free of polio for 25 years.
The countries of the continent anticipate vaccination against rubella, measles, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, flu, yellow fever, rotavirus, bacterial pneumonia, and the human papilloma virus (HPV). The campaign acknowledges achievements reached through immunization during the last 15 years and what is planned moving forward.Since 2000, new vaccines have been introduced in countries and territories of the Region. Currently,20 countries and territories have introduced the rotavirus vaccine, which protects against deadly diarrheal diseases; 34 have introduced pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against types of pneumonia, meningitis and blood infections; and at least 24 have introduced the HPV vaccine, which protects against most types of cervical cancer and genital warts.
These achievements have been possible thanks to the dedication of thousands of health workers, who played a key role to reach everyone in their communities and take vaccines to the most vulnerable populations and hard-to-reach zones.
"We have achieved a healthier region thanks to vaccination," said the chief of PAHO's Comprehensive Family Immunization Unit, Cuauhtémoc Ruiz-Matus. "We will continue working so no children will suffer or die from a disease that we can prevent with vaccination," he added.
Actions for Vaccination Week in the Americas have also gone beyond the immunization field. Health personnel took advantage of the initiative to implement other health actions, like deworming, vitamin A administration, and breastfeeding promotion. Similarly, community mobilization for vaccination has helped close gaps that separate people from needed attention.
Vaccination Week in the Americas started in 2003 as an effort by the countries of the region to combat a measles outbreak between Colombia and Venezuela. Although health workers vaccinate people daily, the special effort to combat the outbreak grew into an annual event to promote vaccination and reach those who may have missed routine immunization. Versions of Vaccination Week were subsequently adopted in other WHO regions, and in 2012, it became a global movement when the World Health Assembly endorsed World Immunization Week and 180 countries around the world began celebrating it.
Regional launches in Mexico and Brazil
A series of launch events for Vaccination Week will take place in Mexico and Brazil. On April 24, Mexico will host the first regional launch. This activity will take place at 10 am in the main courtyard of Mexico's Secretary of Health, located in Lieja 7, Mexico City. The Secretary of Health, Jose Narro, and PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne, are participating, along with other authorities.
Mexico has a long history in carrying out vaccination campaigns and other integrated activities to protect its population's health. The country holds National Health Weeks in February, May and October, so it doesn't plan additional activities during Vaccination Week in the Americas. The intensive vaccination activities it carries out each May have contributed to the regional achievements of Vaccination Week in the Americas.
The second event is on 29 April, when an indigenous village in the Brazilian state of Rondônia, known as Linea 9 Amaral and belonging to the indigenous group Suri, will host a regional launch of Vaccination Week to bring vaccines to a priority group of this initiative. The activity will take place under the framework of celebrations for Vaccination Month of Indigenous People, organized by Brazil.