Minister of Health Akilah Byron-Nisbett has noted the impact that vaccines has had on the socio-economic systems of St. Kitts and Nevis, and has indicated that these mechanisms are important, if the federation is to turn the tide for COVID-19.
Byron-Nisbett was at the time making an address in observance of World Immunization Week, that runs April 24 to 30.
She said the week was the time of year when there is substantial focus on vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease, and being cognizant that immunization saves millions of lives every year, and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.
She said the week is celebrated under the theme “Vaccines bring us closer”.
“This is a compelling reminder of the power and strength of vaccines to save lives, through collective efforts and successful immunization campaigns.”
The Minister of Health said the theme is even more important when at this juncture, globally, the world is confronted with the Coronavirus pandemic, that is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods.
“Only vaccines and immunization can foster physical proximity and bring us closer to each other.
“As more people are protected from COVID-19 through vaccination, our goals of achieving maximal closeness again, reducing travel restrictions, masking and distancing requirements will undoubtedly be closer to attainment.”
Byron-Nisbett noted that vaccines have been protecting the people of St Kitts and Nevis and the world over for decades.
“Not only have vaccines protected us for decades, but it has been proven that vaccines will continue to help us with our usual, traditional, existential way of life.”
She said the COVID-19 vaccines can free the Federation, as other vaccines have done in relation to other dangerous diseases.
“The COVID-19 vaccines will allow us to freely gather safely, whether for work, leisure, learning, duty or worship; will facilitate the building of bridges across generations, protecting the very young and old, by preventing disease transmission within households, and among caregivers.”
She said a successful vaccination campaign will help to reach full potential and safeguard from dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases
“It is the Ministry’s fervent desire to see our citizens and residents venture out into communities, the workplace, and the wider world, with confidence to contribute and thrive throughout their lifespan.”
The Minister of Health said that the potential can only be realized with the COVID-19 vaccine. She said the Ministry can effectively roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.
“With a childhood immunization rate of over 96%, our citizens are accustomed to vaccinations. It has become imperative to depend on effective vaccines to turn the tide of this pandemic.
“However, the tide can only be turned when we reach a large number of our population, no matter where they live or who they are.”
She warned that the consequences can be dire, if vaccinations are too slow.
“If we fail to achieve this, the impact on our health and socio-economic systems will take months or even years to reverse.
“The Ministry of Health will vigorously engage in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign and remains committed to demonstrate the value of vaccines in the health of children, communities and the world.”
The Health Minister also spoke about the successes of the Federation’s National Immunization Programme, which includes vaccines for the prevention of the diseases mentioned above, and boasts of an admirable childhood immunization success rate of 96 to 98 percent from birth to grade six.
In addition to the common childhood vaccines, the influenza vaccine was introduced in the St. Kitts and Nevis immunization programme in 2018, with a focus on clients and groups identified as high risk.
“The targets and groups are health care workers, pregnant women, older adults and persons with chronic diseases. Further, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine , was introduced into the St Kitts and Nevis National Immunization programme in October 2019 to grade six students with an impressive 92% coverage, having seen 758 students vaccinated, from a target population of 824.”