An estimated 60,000 Haitian children under the age of five will receive life-saving immunization this week, as part of the Vaccination Week of the Americas—an annual vaccination initiative covering 44 countries and territories in North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
The vaccination drive in Haiti is led by the Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF, WHO, and the Pan American Health Organization. It started on Saturday, May 1, and is targeting the areas of Cornillon, Fonds Verettes, Gantier, and Thomazeau in the country’s West Department and Cayes, Jacmel, Marigot, Anse-à-Pitre, Belle Anse, Grand Gosier, and Hotte in the South East Department adjacent to the border with the Dominican Republic. Children will receive vaccinations against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, and rubella.
UNICEF representative in Haiti Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans says that “the concurrent vaccination efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic also emphasize the collaborative spirit embodied by the Vaccination Week of the Americas.” She explains that “vaccination is the most cost-effective life-saver for children, but the human cost of not vaccinating a child is immeasurable.”
Following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January, routine immunization efforts were severely affected; many health facilities were damaged or destroyed and interruptions to fuel and power supplies has had a major impact on health services—including the cold chain system that supports the storage and distribution of vaccines. Vaccination Week is therefore an important opportunity to re-start routine immunization in vulnerable areas.
Children will also receive vitamin A supplements and de-worming treatments. Vaccinations will be undertaken at fixed centers and through outreach teams traveling to the most hard-to-reach communities. A total of 146 groups of vaccinators will work on the campaign. UNICEF is providing vaccines, syringes and other equipment with financial assistance also provided by UNICEF and WHO.
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Photo of Cuban doctor administering diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) to children at Delmas from http://www.unmultimedia.org/photo/detail.jsp?query=identifer:428/428587