November 26, 2020

PAHO highlights America's leadership in vaccination although challenges remain

The head of the Comprehensive Family Immunization Unit of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Cuauhtémoc Ruiz Matus, told Efe on Friday that the vaccination program in America is one of the most successful, although challenges remain in the access and confidence in vaccines.

Ruiz Matus affirmed that the situation in the region was one of the issues that were discussed during the XXV Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (GTA) on Preventable Diseases by Vaccination of PAHO, which during the last three days met in Cartagena de Indias about 220 professionals from 33 countries.

The expert stressed that the continent has the highest vaccination coverage in the world and that America is the area that "has made the fastest progress in the introduction of so-called new vaccines."

"We are the region of the world where more than 80% of the total cost of the immunization program, mainly in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, come from national funds," he said.

The head of the Comprehensive Family Immunization Unit of PAHO explained that vaccination in most of the countries of the Americas does not depend on donors or external funds since it comes from "national sources".

He also highlighted that America has some of the most complete vaccination schemes and recalled that when the immunization extension program was created, in 1976, there were only six biologicals in America, which are measles, Bacilo de Calmette-Guérin (BCG). It protects serious forms of tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio.

"Today there are countries like Colombia or Argentina that have 21 biologicals that protect against 26 potential preventable diseases with vaccination," he said.

The scientist explained that the fact that in the continent there is a high coverage of vaccination is not due to the existence of more diseases than in other areas of the world but in America that figure has been reduced thanks to biological ones.

Ruiz Matus stressed the importance of vaccination as a weapon to prevent diseases and set the example of polio.

"America is a polio-free region, the last case of polio was 29 years ago but nevertheless we have to keep vaccinating because in other parts of the world there is still the disease," he added.

The absence of a disease in some parts of the world is causing many cases of people who do not get vaccinated, because "they do not have the perception of risk" if they do not.

"In America we have had imported cases of measles of people leaving the region, who go to another place and return infected, for this we must maintain high vaccination coverage," he said.

In the world, smallpox is the only disease completely eradicated so no country uses vaccine against it.

On the other hand, the expert spoke of the impact of the Venezuelan crisis on health services, which he considers has generated a disruption in regular services and has affected vaccination coverage.

However, to try to keep the region safe, there has been "extensive work" by the Government of Venezuela with international organizations, such as PAHO and the World Health Organization (WHO), "to try to maintain high vaccination coverage. in this country".

For this reason, Ruiz recalled that he is finishing a large vaccination campaign in Venezuela against measles, pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria.

On the other hand, the scientist pointed out that there are two problems for the vaccination program in the world.

The first is that there are countries where the main difficulty is access to vaccination because "there are no health units where people can go to demand" this service.

"This sometimes happens because of geographical access, cultural issues, areas where there are social or armed conflicts," he added.

The other problem is related to the low confidence that some people have in vaccines in countries like the United States and Canada.

"There are people who say that if there is no longer a disease in their region for what they are vaccinated, that is to say that they have no perception of risk. Other countries have so much information, that separating the true information from the false is very difficult and then the lack of security in the vaccines is created, "he concluded.

Ricardo Maldonado Rozo

(tagsToTranslate) OPS (t) leadership (t) America (t) vaccination (t) persist

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