The Bahamas’ “outstanding results” in eradicating and/or reducing vaccine preventable diseases in the country through its Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), is due to the commitment of the Government of The Bahamas and the “commendable service” of the country’s healthcare professionals, Minister of Health Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis told a group of regional healthcare managers.
Addressing the 25th Caribbean Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Managers Meeting which opened in New Providence Monday, the Health Minister said that as a result of the commitment to the EPI, the country has been able to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of increasing national vaccination coverage to 90 percent since the year 2000, while making a reduction in morbidity and mortality for vaccine preventable diseases a reality.
Dr. Minnis said The Bahamas has recorded tremendous success with regards to the treatment of measles as there have been no reported cases of measles in a child since the year 1990, while the last confirmed case of measles in an adult was recorded in 1997.
He pointed out that The Bahamas’ EPI, which is fully funded by the Government and ensures that vaccines are offered free of charge in all public health centres, is an “investment in the health and wealth of our nation that has reaped significant dividends” for the country.
“No deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases have occurred in many years because these diseases are non-existent or rare,” Dr. Minnis said. “We have continuously worked to increase immunization coverage and to keep updated with new vaccines recommended by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO).”
Dr. Minnis told the regional delegates that the objective of The Bahamas’ Programme – since its inception in the late 1970s – has been to standardize the types of vaccines available, while reducing the number of deaths and cases of diseases that are preventable through immunization.
Dr. Minnis said initial efforts were directed toward the prevention of diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, polio, measles and tuberculosis, but that the list had been expanded to include haemophilus influenza Type B, hepatitis, mumps and rubella. He said vaccines for yellow fever and influenza are also available in the public sector.
The Health Minister said a number of vaccines have been introduced and “routinely” administered as part of the country’s national immunization schedule.
“While acknowledging our achievements, the Government of The Bahamas has strengthened its commitment to achieving national and global EPI goals,” Dr. Minnis said.
“From a global perspective, The Bahamas supports the WHO Resolution to implement strategies to reduce measles mortality and to achieve and sustain greater than 95 percent immunization coverage of all routine vaccines administered, and to meet the rubella and congenital rubella syndrome worldwide elimination target by the year 2010,” he added.
Dr. Minnis said nationally, there is a greater compliance with the requirement of basic immunization for pre-school and primary school entrants, and that additional measures have been taken to strengthen monitoring of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Each suspected case of vaccine preventable disease is identified and investigated by our well-trained A-Team, supported by CAREC (Caribbean Epidemiology Centre) Laboratory for confirmation,” Dr. Minnis added.