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Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) turns spotlight on vaccination to hold off another wave of COVID-19
March 20, 2022
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Vaccination week will highlight gaps left by pandemic

Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2022. 10:28 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Conquering COVID-19 has left other health priorities on the backburner, resulting in steps back in progress.

At a press briefing recently, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Jarbas Barbosa, highlighted that pandemic response has left routine immunization programs decades behind – with coverage against polio and measles dropping to 1994 levels.

“COVID-19 showed us, once again, that vaccines are the most important tool to control infectious disease and save lives,” he said. “Yet in just two years, we’ve rolled back nearly three decades of progress on polio and measles.”

Vaccine coverage for other childhood diseases has also fallen further behind, with diphtheria and yellow fever threatening to resurge unless countries take urgent action, the Assistant Director warned.

HPV vaccination, which prevents cervical cancer in young women and girls, has also stalled across the region due to school disruptions.

While many countries restarted campaigns against measles, rubella, and polio in 2021, and at least eight countries are planning to do follow-up measles campaigns this year, sustaining high coverage is “essential to securing our children’s future and allowing our region to flourish,” he said.

The Assistant Director called for strong political and technical leadership at national and local levels to raise routine vaccination coverage and urged countries to leverage COVID-19 vaccination efforts to rapidly roll out other essential vaccines, including the influenza vaccine.

“We cannot waste time,” Dr Barbosa said. “We have the experience, tools, and know-how to catch up on missed vaccinations, prevent diseases, and protect our families today and in the future.”

PAHO “will work with countries across the Region to run coordinated national campaigns during Vaccination Week in the Americas,” and the PAHO Revolving Fund stands ready to “continue to support countries with purchases of routine vaccines,” he added.

 

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