CARPHA urges member states to maintain vaccine coverage

Although there is no vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), vaccinations against seasonal influenza and measles are available to prevent respiratory illness and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. If vaccination programmes are not continued, more people are likely to get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases, thus increasing the burden on the already strained health systems.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The virus is transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity (usually less than two metres).

Given the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Caribbean region, it is important that people take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones. Because the virus is new and different it requires its own vaccine. Research is currently underway to develop a vaccine.

Dr Joy St John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) states, “Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for over 60 years, and vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent influenza, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Once a COVID-19 vaccination becomes available in the Caribbean, CARPHA is assured that the same care and due diligence would have been in place in developing the vaccine, as has been in place for the development of vaccines against respiratory illnesses.”

The Caribbean has long been a leader among regions of the world, as our countries have applied high standards in the delivery of vaccination programmes. While successfully maintaining a measles-free status since 1991, the Caribbean has also been eradicated of endemic smallpox in 1971, polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015. The health of the general public improved drastically with the vaccinations that allowed children to survive because they no longer developed severe measles infections.