Long Life for All

Immunisation is estimated to save 2-3 million lives every year; yet, too many people still do not have access to these life-saving tools. Globally, an estimated 23 million children under the age of one year did not receive basic vaccines, which is the highest number since 2009, according to the World Health Organization.
World Immunisation Week, celebrated from April 24th- 30th each year, aims to promote vaccines as a way to protect people against diseases. Immunisation saves millions of lives every year, and is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions.
These observances, the WHO emphasises, aims to highlight the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
This year’s theme: “Long Life for All”, aims to unify people around the idea that vaccines make it possible for us to follow our dreams, protect our loved ones, and live a long, healthy life.
It has been 20 years since Vaccination Week was began in the Americas, and 45 years since EPI (Immunisation Programme) started in Guyana.
According to the WHO, this year’s campaign comes at an especially critical time, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted essential health services, including routine immunization, setting back progress by more than a decade. This, according to WHO, has unfortunately led to millions of people still missing out on the life-saving benefits of vaccines, making it urgent to catch up and reach those who have been missed.
As World Immunisation Week approaches, here in Guyana, there is a desperate plea for persons, more so teenagers, to take their COVID-19 jabs.
Guyana’s Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony has reported that over the weekend there was zero vaccination uptake, while expressing concern over the low numbers.
As at Wednesday, local vaccination statistics show that 439,306 persons, or 85.6 per cent of the adult population, have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 338,438 persons, or 66 per cent of the adult population, are inoculated with two doses.
For the 12-to-17 age group, 34,435 persons, or 47.2 per cent, have received a first jab, while 25,194 persons, or 34.5 per cent, have received two doses. The low uptake by school-aged children is also cause for concern, especially as the date for school reopening nears.
To quote the Health Minister on this low figure by school-aged children: “There is a lot more work to be done with this age group. Unfortunately, we have been seeing about 100 to 200 vaccinations per day. That includes both first and second doses. That’s pretty low, and these numbers have been stagnant for quite a while. I’m hoping that with school reopening shortly, that more parents would give permission for their child to get vaccinated.”
Globally with respect to general vaccination, despite a coordinated effort to boost coverage rates over the past decade, the WHO has stated that over 19.5 million infants still do not have access to vaccines that protect against life-threatening yet easily preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and rotavirus.
In Guyana’s context, health care workers have been recognised for their tireless efforts in conducting community outreaches to meet the general vaccination targets.
The WHO and its partners hope to improve vaccination rates in the developing world through targets set by the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). The primary goal of this Vaccination Week’s global initiatives, therefore, is to increase vaccination coverage by raising awareness of the importance of immunisation among parents and caregivers, health care professionals, policy and decision-makers, and the media.
We therefore urge that Guyanese take their jabs, as, for centuries, vaccines have kept people healthy, and according to the WHO, this has been from the very first vaccine developed to protect against smallpox to the newest vaccines used to prevent severe cases of COVID-19.