Thursday 2 July, 2020

CARPHA: Get vaccinated for flu, measles

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is calling on its member states to keep encouraging vaccinations against preventable diseases.

In a media release this afternoon, CARPHA implored the Caribbean to cover other aspects of healthcare by maintaining vaccination drives.

“Although there is no vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), vaccinations against seasonal influenza and measles are available to prevent respiratory illness and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. If vaccination programmes are not continued, more people are likely to get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases, thus increasing the burden on the already strained health systems,” they wrote.

While research is underway to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, CARPHA says it’s important for citizens to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated for other diseases.

Dr Joy St John, Executive Director at CARPHA said, “Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for over 60 years, and vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent influenza, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.  Once a COVID-19 vaccination becomes available in the Caribbean, CARPHA is assured that the same care and due diligence would have been in place in developing the vaccine, as has been in place for the development of vaccines against respiratory illnesses.”  

Praising the Caribbean’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19 so far, CARPHA says we’ve also been leaders in vaccination for other illnesses as well.

“While successfully maintaining a measles-free status since 1991, the Caribbean has also been eradicated of endemic smallpox in 1971, polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.  The health of the general public improved drastically with the vaccinations that allowed children to survive because they no longer developed severe measles infections,” they said.

As a result, CARPHA is encouraging that Caribbean countries stay the course in order to keep the population as healthy as possible; especially in the face of a pandemic.

“If we fall behind in our immunisation programmes we run the risk of recurrence of measles and other previously eradicated diseases,” they added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends annual vaccination, which is especially important for health workers and people at higher risk of serious influenza complications, such as the very young, pregnant women, the elderly and chronically ill persons, and for people who live with or care for high risk individuals.

Dr St John explains that the primary form of transmission for COVID-19 and the flu are through the movement of droplets between persons and direct physical contact with the virus even on surfaces.  She added that large social events can create serious public health challenges because persons are often crowded together, making spread of COVID-19 from person to person very easy.

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