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Recognizing that vaccines are the most cost-effective component of healthcare services and have saved more lives than any other primary health care intervention, the Ministry of Health is continuing its awareness drive to make vaccines available to all eligible persons. It is instructive to note that vaccines utilize the body’s own natural defense system to strengthen protection against a disease. Accordingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has accumulated a portfolio of vaccines to safeguard against over 20 life-threatening diseases.

Vaccines are subject to robust international testing protocols and involve thousands of volunteers to establish safe, quality-assured, and effective medicines in our population. Consequently, the administration of vaccines and immunization is a critical aspect of Saint Lucia’s primary health care program and constitutes a basic right of all citizens to avail themselves of this life-saving opportunity. Therefore, the Ministry of Health has established a well-structured, coordinated vaccination program to ensure that all children and adults have access to free, life-saving vaccines at the various Wellness Centres, which are geographically dispersed in the country and private pediatrician offices, free of cost.

Our population must be protected from any potential vaccine-preventable disease outbreak. This can only be achieved by maintaining high vaccination rates for all vaccines among all age groups. Vaccinations contribute to the overall health and well-being of the population.

Globally, WHO estimates that immunization currently prevents approximately 3.5 to 5 million deaths annually from diseases, such as, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, and measles. Moreover, small pox, which has killed over 300 million people, was eradicated in 1979, with the advent of small pox vaccine. Fortunately, with our well-structured and integrated vaccine program, measles, rubella, tetanus, polio, and a few other notable diseases have been eliminated. Indeed, the Caribbean, including Saint Lucia was among the first regions in the world to obtain certification for measles elimination.

The Ministry of Health, Wellness and Elderly Affairs through the national surveillance system continues to monitor any adverse events which may arise following vaccination. Additionally, the Ministry of Health continues to encourage vaccinations along with other public health measures such as good nutrition, exercise, and a safe environment to reduce the risk of spread of vaccine preventable diseases.

The common side effects following vaccination include soreness, slight pain or mild swelling at the injection site and fever, which resolves within two to three days. Serious adverse reactions to vaccines are rare and the benefits of vaccination in preventing diseases far outweigh the risks.

As a small vulnerable nation, Saint Lucia must safeguard the level of protection gained against vaccine preventable diseases through its Immunization Program, which was implemented over several decades. In addition, we must strive to achieve vaccination coverage of at least 95% for the various vaccines.


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