Ministry of Health encourages vaccinations for measles
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has noted the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) report of an increased number of cases of measles, in the Americas, which includes North, South and Central America and the Caribbean Region.
Trinidad and Tobago however, maintains a high immunization coverage as it pertains to measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, according to a statement released by the Ministry on Wednesday.
"This positive immunization status is directly related to Trinidad and Tobago’s resilient, vigilant and committed approach to reducing the prevalence of all vaccine-preventable diseases. The national Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) of the Ministry of Health manages programmes that treat with such diseases," the Ministry said.
"Trinidad and Tobago however, remains at risk for the re-introduction of measles due to factors such as regular global travel to and from our shores and increased visitor arrivals during peak periods such as Carnival or international sporting events."
Measles is an acute viral illness which is highly infectious. It is characterised by fever, rash, and cough. Anyone who has not been completely immunized and come into contact with the virus is at risk for developing Measles. The risk of developing measles is higher in children under five years of age.
The present strategy employed by the MoH to protect against the re-introduction of Measles centers around two primary components:
1. Achieving and maintaining high immunization coverage for measles
2. Prompt management of any cases
A key step taken by the MoH to manage national vaccination levels was the reduction in the time between a child’s first and second Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccinations. Infants can now receive their second MMR dose at two years old. Previously, the second dose was given between four and five years of age. Immunisation initiatives, such as this, have helped to increase the overall vaccination coverage across the island to the 93 and 90 percentiles in respect of the first and second doses of MMR received.
The Ministry also emphasised that there is no link between vaccines and Autism; the MMR vaccine is safe and effective at preventing measles, mumps, and rubella. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most people who get the MMR vaccine do not have any side effects. Vaccine safety experts, including experts at the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), agree that the MMR vaccine is not responsible for increases in the number of children with autism (See https://www.cdc.gov/ vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html).
The public is reminded that all children (between the ages of 5 and 16 years) must be immunized before being admitted into a school. Certificates of Immunisation (immunisation cards) must be presented to the school upon registration, as proof that the child has received the required vaccinations. This is in accordance with the Public Health (Nursery Schools and Primary Schools Immunisation) Act Chapter 28:03 and the Education Act. Chapter 39:01.
Parents are advised to ensure that their child receives all the necessary vaccinations within the prescribed periods. This service is available, at no cost, at all public health centres across Trinidad and Tobago.
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