Haiti launches largest ever vaccination campaign
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 6 November 2007 – 5.7 million, representing 58 per cent of the population of Haiti will be immunized against measles, rubella, polio, treated for worms and given vitamin A supplements between November 2007 to March 2008. The largest ever immunization campaign to date was officially launched yesterday in Port-au-Prince by the Prime Minister, Ministry of Public Health and Population, and the Ministry of Education in collaboration with World Health Organization, UNICEF, MINUSTAH (UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti), and other partners.
The elimination of deadly diseases like measles and rubella remains a public health priority and is part of the national public health strategy to prevent an epidemic. Routine immunization has been particularly weak in the last five years. In fact, according to EMMUS IV, only 39 per cent of children ages 12-23 months have been completely vaccinated against preventable diseases and 11 per cent of children have never been vaccinated. Home to some of the poorest, most isolated and vulnerable children in the region, Haiti has among the worst immunization indicators in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Of particular concern is the fact that 11 cases of measles were confirmed in the North-East and South last year. Recent cases of measles in neighboring countries, combined with migration patterns and poor access to healthcare, make Haiti particularly vulnerable to a measles epidemic, as seen in 2001. According to WHO, 80% national immunization is necessary to prevent an epidemic.
The mass immunization campaign aims to eliminate rubella and measles and prevent a reintroduction and mutation of the polio virus. To date, approximately 8328 health workers have been mobilized and 3545 volunteers recruited to ensure each eligible child and adult gets vaccinated. UNICEF is proud to take part in this ambitious effort. An estimated 100,000 children from 1 to 19 years will be saved and we will prevent 15 000 cases of blindness and paralysis in children from 0 to 59 months,” said Gaudeamus Mbabazi, interim Representative for UNICEF Haiti.
Thanks to the financial support of the European Union, the United Nations, Canadian and Spanish funds combined with technical support from the Haitian government, UNICEF is actively supporting the campaign through the provision of vaccines which count 1,316,700 doses of vitamin A, 2,166,300 doses of Albendazole (used in the treatment of worms), 1,664,000 doses of Measles/Rubella vaccines, and 1,554,700 doses of the tetanus vaccinations to benefit women of childbearing age in high risk communities.
In addition, UNICEF is providing support to social mobilization activities to ensure the success of the campaign and is contributing to the ‘cold chain’ – which preserves vaccines and keeps them safe for their recipients. Anticipated the issue of safe disposal of medical waste from the campaign, UNICEF has provided the Ministry of Health with 30 incinerators which are currently being installed in appropriate locations. “Thanks to the government of Japan, UNICEF continues to reinforce routine vaccination in Haiti. This campaign will have a particularly strong impact by going directly to schools, health centres, community centres, and door to door in high-risk and remote areas,” added Mbabazi.
The immunization campaign will cover: