Cayman top of the shots

| 26/11/2009

(CNS): Efforts by local health officials to tackle vaccine-preventable diseases have been recognised by the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) with one of it highest accolades. The Public Health Department has received the 2009 Award for Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in the Caribbean. The Islands’ immunisation programme is ranked as one of the most successful in the Caribbean. On average, more than 90% of the population is immunised annually. This is the second time that Cayman has received the award. The department was also honoured in 1999.

It was presented to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar at the 26th Annual Caribbean EPI Managers Meeting held in St. Kitts earlier this month (9-13 November). Congratulating the public health team, Minister of Health Mark Scotland said, “It once again acknowledges our public health officials’ rigorous efforts to protect the health of the population. They continue to work towards immunising every child.”

He specifically commended the efforts of Public Health Surveillance Officer Timothy McLaughlin and EPI Manager Alice Jane Ebanks who spearhead Cayman’s surveillance programmes for vaccine preventable diseases such as polio, measles and rubella.

These figures have allowed public health officials to make significant strides in eradicating certain communicable diseases. “However, our goal is to achieve the target of 95% immunisation.” Dr. Kumar adding urging all parents to check their children’s immunisation records. “Parents must ensure that children are fully immunised. It will greatly support our efforts if they keep track of the schedule (as printed in each child’s record) and make the necessary appointments through the Public Health Department or any of the district health centres.”

As a result of the immunization programme the Cayman Islands rarely encounters cases of major infectious diseases: According to the public health department the last case of Poliomyelitis (Polio) occurred in 1957.

One imported case of rubella was reported in 2000 and the spread from this was limited to nine people, who were mainly older adults as children and young adults were immunized. No Congenital Rubella Syndrome (birth defects from rubella infection) was reported following these cases.  The last Congenital Rubella Syndrome case occurred in 1996 in a child born locally to an expatriate. The last incidence of measles occurred in 1990 when 27 cases were reported. Diphtheria has now been absent from Cayman for decades and the last case of Haemophilus influenzae type b or Hib was over a decade ago, when two serious cases were reported. Pertussis or Whooping cough was last  seen when a local outbreak occurred in 1999 with a total of nine cases reported. 

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