Ministry VSA continues to Implement Recommendations Coming out of 30th Caribbean EPI Managers Meeting

Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA) Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Dr. Virginia Asin, says CPS is busy with the implementation of the recommendations that came out of the 30th meeting of the Caribbean Immunization Managers hosted by Sint Maarten last November which dealt with the finalization of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) plan of action for 2015.
One of the general recommendations is that countries should continue working towards achieving national coverage of 95% or more for each administered vaccine at each region, district, or zone level.
Sint Maarten’s immunization coverage between 0 and 17-year olds is 92 per cent.
“For Sint Maarten this means that we will have to continue with our efforts to reach all children on the island with the vaccination program.

“Since last year we are using a new digital immunization database. This database gives us the possibility to have better access to the vaccination data and to see which children are missing vaccines.
“For 2015 we are planning at least one outreach activity to give persons the possibility to update their children’s vaccination status,” Dr. Josien van Wijk from Youth Health Care stated on Tuesday.
Another recommendation that came out of the EPI Manager’s meeting was that countries should increase efforts to introduce new and underutilized vaccines, for example HPV (Human Papilloma Virus vaccine against cervical cancer), PCV (Pneumococcal vaccine) and influenza vaccines, in the public sector immunization schedule.
Sint Maarten already introduced the HPV and the PCV vaccine in 2013. The influenza vaccine is also available on the island, but not in an immunization program.
Countries were also advised that they should conduct ongoing activities to educate and empower communities in understanding the value of immunization programs.
During 2015, CPS will continue with newspaper updates, radio interviews and the Vaccination Week of the America’s activities.
Countries were also asked to assure updated immunization guidelines and periodic training for their health care workers in the public and private sectors.
“In the end of 2013 we executed vaccination training for all youth health care staff. In 2014 we trained the staff in the use of the new EPI database and reporting system.
“In 2015 we are planning to have training sessions about vaccinations and about the cold chain. With the introduction of the pneumococcal vaccine and the HPV vaccine in 2013, training sessions were conducted and immunization guidelines for these two vaccines were developed for health care workers.
“In 2015 we want to update the existing EPI manual with all the immunization guidelines,” Dr. Josien van Wijk, Youth Health Care concluded.
EPI was started 40-years ago – May 1974 at the 27th World Health Assembly – as an ambitious effort to tackle six vaccine-preventable diseases, and has become one of the world’s most successful World Health Organization public health programmes ensuring that all children, in all countries, benefit from life-saving vaccines.

Over 60 health officials from across the Caribbean region came together to analyse and share experiences about the EPI coverage for 2013 and 2014 to date.

The EPI Managers’ meeting was held at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort from November 19th to 21st and the organizing committee for the event was headed by Committee Chairlady Deborah Granger, Swinda Richardson, Nirmala Vlaun and Claudette Levenstone.