WASHINGTON, DC April 24, 2020 (CMC) – Countries must strengthen vaccination against seasonal influenza and measles, to prevent respiratory illness and vaccine-preventable diseases outbreaks, during the COVID-19 pandemic, say experts at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
The recommendations come on the cusp of the 18th Vaccination Week in the Americas, which will take place April 25-May 2 with the slogan “Love. Trust. Protect. #GetVax”.
Since 2003, more than 806 million people, of all ages, have been vaccinated against a wide range of dangerous diseases, under the regional initiative, promoted by PAHO.
“Vaccines save lives and must be maintained, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most vulnerable should not suffer the consequences of not getting the vaccines they need,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne.
“I commend countries in this region that have already adapted their campaigns to this new reality, and are making great efforts to keep vaccinating in a safe manner.”
Vaccinating to prevent serious respiratory illness from the flu, and stop measles outbreaks, is key to protecting people, while helping health systems focus on the response to COVID-19, said PAHO/WHO.
Some 17 countries in the Americas have reported they are using the Vaccination Week in the Americas platform, to vaccinate against influenza, and another 17 plan to vaccinate against measles.
Three countries in the Americas – Argentina, Brazil and Mexico – are currently battling measles outbreaks, as well as dealing with COVID-19 cases.
PAHO has recommended that primary health care providers vaccinate against measles, while taking measures to protect communities and health care workers from COVID-19.
“Vaccination is key, not just for our communities, but also for our health care workers,” said Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, Head of the Comprehensive Family Immunization program at PAHO. “We vaccinate to protect them, just as much as to protect ourselves.”
Countries are also including messages, related to COVID-19 prevention, as part of their Vaccination Week campaigns, such as the importance of good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and dispelling myths and misinformation about the disease.
Physical distancing is also affecting this year’s Vaccination Week campaigns, which usually include community activities, like health fairs, parades and other community events.