After the Hurricane: recovery of primary care and immunisation services

Editorial Team

Editorial Team

November 21st, 2017

Editorial Team

‘Vaccine Ambassadors is supplying vaccines and solar-powered refrigerators to a storm-struck Caribbean island’

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has been a hyperactive one: it saw the highest number of consecutive hurricanes since weather experts began using satellites to record tropical storms.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Ophelia and more than a dozen others made landfall, causing devastation and loss of life. Ophelia hit Ireland and parts of the UK, while Irma crashed into Florida and Harvey claimed more than 75 lives in Texas.

Among the worst hit areas were the small islands of the Caribbean Sea, including Dominica – a tiny island nation of around 71,000 people.

Vaccine Ambassadors, a Vaccines Today supporter organisation committed to improving access to immunisation, has mobilized funding to replenish vaccines that were lost as a result of the Hurricane Maria. The Pan American Health Organization is supporting the freight costs and delivery process to get the vaccines where they are needed.

‘In September, Dominica suffered catastrophic destruction throughout the entire island when Hurricane Maria made landfall as a category 5 hurricane,’ says Jackie Kaufman of Vaccine Ambassadors. ‘Dominica’s immunization program was severely compromised. Healthcare facilities were damaged or destroyed and all vaccines were lost due to widespread power outages, according to a report issued by the Pan American Health Organization.’

Without alternative energy sources to maintain a consistent temperature, the integrity of the vaccines was unable to be preserved. Repairs to municipal utilities are expected to take months to be fully restored.

In response to the immediate situation, in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization, Vaccine Ambassadors will provide an emergency 4-month supply of routine vaccines for children and adults residing on the island in addition to the delivery of five solar powered refrigerators. 

This will guarantee a sustained source of alternate power while the municipal power supply is restored. In addition, fuel to support generators to power existing refrigerators cannot be maintained in the current situation as the government seeks funding for national reconstruction.

‘Sustaining the health and well-being, especially of children, by maintaining the national immunisation program is critical at all times and especially during periods of natural disasters,’ says Kaufman. ‘Low vaccination coverage will increase the risk of re-importation of vaccine-preventable diseases, many of which the country has eliminated for more than twenty-five years.’

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