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Belize hosts annual meeting of Caribbean immunization managers

Posted: Monday, October 30, 2023. 7:34 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Beginning today, Belize hosts the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) 37th annual meeting of the Caribbean Immunization Managers – those in charge of the supranational Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) first launched in 1974 and expanded to the Caribbean in 1977.

Welcoming participants, host Minister Kevin Bernard said, “Our focus is more than just sustaining the progress we have made – it is about reversing the setbacks incurred due to the pandemic and ensuring the development of robust resilient health care systems that can weather any storm that the future might hold. In the coming days, I am confident that your collective wisdom will give rise to innovative and effective strategies that will profoundly shape the future of public health in our region. The only forward is together. Only through collaboration can we build a healthier safer world for all.”

More than 60 participants from 25 countries and territories are meeting analyse achievements and challenges in 2022-2023 and planning activities for the upcoming year 2024, which include but are not limited to: reviewing the status of the EPI program in the Region of the Americas and the Caribbean and identify areas that require strengthening; discussing the status in countries in the surveillance and management of vaccine-preventable diseases and areas that require strengthening; updating information on selective topics of common interest to countries relating to immunization, service delivery, and surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases; and sharing country experiences in sustaining polio eradication and measles/rubella elimination.

“Immunization is a fundamental key to good health and wellbeing and the evidence remains that vaccination is a public good and one of the most cost-effective interventions in health. Vaccination coverage is a good indicator of the performance of the Essential Health Services at the first level of care and also of universal health coverage,” said Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, PAHO/WHO Representative in Belize. “To effectively plan, prepare and execute activities to improve coverage and ensure sustained capacities for early detection and response to outbreaks of measles, rubella, polio, and other serious illnesses, which are vaccine-preventable, it is necessary to conduct a thorough review of where we are, the gaps in operations and to discuss the strategies for improvement. This is and has always been the main purpose of the Caribbean EPI Managers’ Meeting.”

The meeting will also feature a workshop titled ‘Effective Communication for Vaccine Uptake.’ This workshop will emphasize risk communication and community engagement, with a special focus on inclusive and culturally sensitive communication practices. At the end of this week-long meeting, the Caribbean countries will have joint agreements with coordinated innovative strategies and key activities that will sustain the elimination and prevention of vaccine-preventable diseases in the region.

 

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