Guest post by Vaccine Ambassadors and the Pan American Healthcare Organisation
For the past 18 years, the Pan American Region has celebrated Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA). This initiative was proposed by the Ministries of Health in the Andean region in response to a measles outbreak in the area and remains one of the flagship campaigns of the Pan American Health Organization.
Currently, over 40 countries and territories participate in this annual event, which commences during the last week of April. This week-long event spotlights the vital role that immunizations have in protecting us against diseases that were once commonplace. It also serves as an opportunity to reach vulnerable populations with limited access to healthcare services. Since its inception, over 806 million people have received vaccinations under the framework of this initiative.
This year will be different. Many countries will be postponing mass immunization gatherings, parades, or cultural events that typically mark this historic week. Some countries are holding virtual or symbolic events to mark Vaccination Week. Others are strengthening vaccination against seasonal influenza and measles, with the goal of preventing additional outbreaks and serious respiratory illness.
As COVID-19 makes its way around the globe, countries in the region are enacting the necessary steps to stop the spread of this highly infectious and deadly disease.
While many of the outward displays may be absent this year, the resolve to prevent the preventable is more present and appreciated than ever. Not only do vaccines protect the individual and community, but also the fragile healthcare systems that are overburdened and under-resourced.
Optimizing health through vaccination is an essential part of pandemic preparedness.
This is a special opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination as an essential health service to update incomplete vaccination schedules as soon as possible, as well as strengthen the region’s immunization programs to be prepared to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available.
To learn more about the history and event, visit the PAHO website and follow the hashtag #GetVax.
Jackie Kaufman, Vaccine Ambassadors
Lauren Vulanovic, Pan American Health Organization
Alba Maria Ropero, Pan American Health Organization
Octavia Silva, Pan American Health Organization