The year's slogan, "Vaccination: a shared responsibility," highlights the importance of governments, health workers, communities and families doing their part to support immunization.

Washington, D.C., 18 April 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Health workers and volunteers throughout the hemisphere are gearing up for the 11th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas, which begins this Saturday, April 20, and extends through Saturday, April 27.

Health authorities from French Guiana and Suriname head for a binational launch event for Vaccination Week in the Americas in 2011.

Forty-four countries and territories are participating in this year's initiative, aiming to reach more than 44 million children and adults.

The slogan for this year's initiative is "Vaccination: a shared responsibility," highlighting the importance of everyone doing their part in supporting immunization, one of public health's most important and cost-effective interventions.

"Everyone has a part to play in fighting vaccine-preventable diseases," said Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). "Governments, in funding programs; national immunization programs, in organizing activities; health workers, in spreading out to the farthest corners of the Americas to vaccinate people of all ages, not only in cities but also in rural and border zones and other hard-to-reach areas. And families and communities, for making sure that everyone gets up to date on their vaccines."

Vaccination Week is the largest international health effort in the Americas. Since 2003, it has taken the benefits of vaccines to more than 411 million people of all ages, including more than 140 million children under 5 and nearly 139 million senior citizens. The initiative's success helped inspire the launch in 2012 of World Immunization Week, which is being celebrated again this year by more than 180 countries worldwide.

"The region of the Americas has a proud history of leadership in fighting vaccine-preventable diseases," said Etienne. "We were the first region in the world to eradicate smallpox and polio and to eliminate measles and rubella. Pan American cooperation has been key to this progress and remains key for protecting our hard-won achievements."

A number of launching events are planned for Vaccination Week in the Americas this year, including:

  • A regional launch on 24 April in the "Adjacency Zone" between Belize and Guatemala.*
  • A second regional launch on 27 April in Port-of-Prince, Haiti, focusing on vaccinating women ages 15—49 against tetanus and strengthening vaccination in areas of low coverage to keep the country free of measles and rubella.
  • National events in Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Panama, Antigua and Barbuda, the Cayman Islands, and many other countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Bi-national events in border areas including Honduras—Guatemala, Panama—Costa Rica, Panama—Colombia, and Guyana—Suriname.
See fact sheet below for country-specific immunization plans and goals for 2013.
Participating countries this year are deploying vaccines against diseases including polio, measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough, neonatal tetanus, influenza, yellow fever, rotavirus, bacterial pneumonia, and human papillomavirus, among others.
In addition, 18 countries and territories are planning to carry out supplemental activities such as deworming, vitamin A supplementation, growth monitoring, cancer screening, distribution of water filters, body-mass-index (BMI) screening, and foot care demonstrations for people with diabetes.
Throughout its 11-year history, Vaccination Week in the Americas has promoted expanded access to immunization, particularly for vulnerable groups and remote communities that traditionally lack access to health services. The initiative also promotes communication and cooperation between countries and helps keep immunization high on the regional and national political agendas.
"Vaccination Week reminds all of us that we cannot become complacent about vaccines. The fact that they have made many diseases disappear and pushed others out of our minds, that does not mean vaccination is no longer necessary," said PAHO Director Etienne. "Keeping our immunization rates high is key to making sure that none of these diseases can make a comeback."
PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.
*  Vaccination Week in the Americas reinforces the Agreement to Establish a Transition Process and Confidence Building Measures Between Belize and Guatemala, supported by the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS).



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Vaccination Week in the Countries

Activities carried out during Vaccination Week in the Americas vary from country to country, reflecting national priorities. Below are examples of plans that countries have reported to PAHO in three categories.
1. Protecting achievements: polio eradication, measles elimination, diphtheria and hepatitis B control, and completion of vaccination schedules.
  • Countries and territories including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Venezuela are focusing on completing the vaccination schedules for children under 5 years or giving booster doses to school-aged children. Many of these countries are focusing on high-risk groups and populations living in areas with low vaccination coverage. In Brazil, a special effort is being made to complete childhood immunization schedules in indigenous communities.
  • To maintain the eradication of polio, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua will carry out mass polio vaccination focused on children under 5.
  • In anticipation of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Uruguay will begin a measles campaign targeting people born between 1965 and 1987 (excepting pregnant women) and travelers who cannot prove that they have received two doses of MMR.
  • Starting on 1 April, Peru has been providing hepatitis B vaccine for individuals 5-24 years of age. The vaccine will be available for the rest of this year in all health facilities.
  • Argentina will use Vaccination Week to encourage universal vaccination against hepatitis B.
2. Completing the unfinished agenda: improving vaccination coverage against yellow fever, influenza, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, and maternal and neonatal tetanus in high-risk, isolated, border, and indigenous populations.
  • Bolivia, El Salvador and Nicaragua are among countries that will target women of childbearing age for vaccination against tetanus/diphtheria (Td). Nicaragua aims to vaccinate 587,660 people, including both men and women at 10 and 20 years of age, and members of specific risk groups.
  • Countries planning to carry out seasonal influenza campaigns as part of their Vaccination Week activities include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia and Uruguay. Brazil's goal is to reach more than 30 million people, including seniors, indigenous populations, pregnant and post-partum women, healthcare workers, prisoners and children from 6 months to under 2 years of age.
  • Countries and territories including Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat and St. Lucia will target occupational risk groups including construction workers, corrections officers, customs and immunization officers, farmers, fireman, gardeners, health-care workers, industrial workers, pharmacists, police, port workers, public servants, and sanitation workers, administering vaccines including Td, hepatitis B and influenza.
3. Facing new challenges: several countries will carry out immunization or promotional campaigns focused on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
  • Barbados is planning a staff sensitization workshop for 500 health-care workers with a special emphasis on HPV vaccine, in preparation for the vaccine's introduction later this year.
  • The British Virgin Islands will raise awareness about HPV among key stakeholders, including church leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and other community members.
  • Paraguay introduced HPV vaccine in March and during Vaccination Week will target school-aged girls born between 2002 and 2003.
  • Suriname will launch an HPV vaccine promotional campaign that will include meetings with school personnel and local authorities and training for health-care workers.
  • Trinidad and Tobago plan to vaccine 20,000 girls ages 11 and 12 with HPV vaccine, in all public and private primary and secondary schools and at health centers.