Mini EPI Meeting concludes De Weever supports improved vaccines

POSTED: 09/21/12 1:14 PM

GREAT BAY (DCOMM) – Health officials from Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, the BES islands and the Netherlands, concluded their mini expanded program on immunization (EPI) two-day conference last week with the intention to move forward on a number of areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) established the EPI in May 1974 to extend the benefits of vaccination to a larger number of children.

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor Cornelius de Weever said: “It is extremely important that we work together regardless of the constitutional changes. Our regional and international reporting obligations continue. We must be proactive and consider increasing the age for vaccination coverage and also introducing new and approved vaccines.”

The Pan American Health Organization (Paho) organizes a meeting every year for the English Dutch and French speaking Caribbean region, including the Center for Disease Control and the Canadian Public Health EPI authorities.

The islands of the former Netherlands Antilles indicated previously that they wanted to continue working together after the constitutional changes. The international setting was initially the place where the islands met separately; however the choice was made later on to have a Mini EPI meeting for the six islands apart from the big one. This is the second time that Sint Maarten has organized this meeting.

Each country presented its country report on the status of vaccination; achievements and challenges and plans for the future. All islands indicated that new vaccines will be introduced in their schedules. The BES will be following the Dutch schedule when applicable. Challenges with reaching certain groups in the community and interpreting foreign vaccination records were also highlighted.

One of the agenda points of discussion by EPI managers was surveillance. How well is reporting done and who reports and why is it important to report on occurring communicable diseases. Sint Maarten and all the other islands depend on tourism and there are still some diseases out there of which some are re-emerging and we need to be aware and ready to deal with them.

In that respect the SLS presented information on the incidence of certain communicable diseases in St. Maarten. Both the Paho/Carec and the Netherlands stressed on the importance of reporting so one knows what is happening in order to react adequately.

Another topic was also the introduction of the heel shot which is a health screening carried out on newborns with the aim to verify whether they have certain congenital conditions that can be treated if discovered early on, but if left untreated cause severe health and other problems for the individual.

The BES islands will introduce the heel shot while the other islands want to make use of the opportunity to introduce this type of screening for their children, and are now looking into how the logistics can be worked out together with the Netherlands as the material has to be screened in that country. Sint Maarten also made use of the opportunity to have its cold chain equipment inspected.

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