Local health officials are emphasing the importance of public education and continuous training of medical staff in Antigua and Barbuda in order to achieve full coverage in the immunisation program against measles.
During a recent interview with our newsroom, Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, explained that the Caribbean region was the first to eliminate rubella, congenital rubella syndrome and measles.
However, the recent outbreaks worldwide have resulted in the region losing its validation of having eliminated the infection, prompting the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to appeal to countries of the Americas, of which Antigua is a part, to increase the rate and scope of vaccinations.
According to the minister, for several years, Antigua and Barbuda has maintained 95 percent coverage, and he insists that the twin-island state will be pushing for full coverage to prevent any potential outbreaks.
He concludes that this can only be achieved through public education.
“For Antigua and Barbuda to maintain its rate of measles immunisation and reach 100 percent coverage, we believe that public education is essential. Despite our measles status, Antigua and Barbuda and other Caribbean countries remain at risk because of global travel, we cannot avoid that,” Joseph said.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas said that the ministry has used the opportunity, with the introduction of the Human Papillomavirus vaccination programme, to continue to train healthcare providers in how to administer the vaccine and deal with adverse events, while at the same time promoting the importance of vaccines.
“We will be continuing to improve what we do. We get our vaccines from PAHO’s revolving fund, and we will take all steps within the ministry to continue to have a line item in our budget for vaccine procurement, to train our workers and to continue to educate and engage the public,” Sealey-Thomas said. (Theresa Goodwin)