The Ministry of Health formally launched the Measles, Mumps and Rubella Survey on Friday September 25th in collaboration with the Ministry of Education endorsed and supported by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
Being the Major provider within the Public Health Care System of St. Lucia the Ministry of Health is obligated to promote and protect child health. Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George said immunization or vaccination is a proven strategy and tool for controlling and eliminating life threatening infectious diseases in children.
“It is one of the most cost effective health investments with proven strategies and it can be made accessible to children throughout our communities.” Belmar George added that based on the recommendation of PAHO/WHO, the Ministry of Health has formulated several strategies to ensure every child in St. Lucia has access to immunization or vaccines via the 33 Wellness Centres, 2 hospital and the Gros Islet Polyclinic free of charge. To date the Ministry of Health has maintained a 95% coverage in children below 2 years old.
“However we are quite concerned about children from the 4, 5-6 age range and a little later on where persons have not been fully vaccinated. And that has put those children and other children at risk of developing vaccine preventable diseases…So part of this survey will allow us to asses our level of coverage of vaccines of children within the schools.” Belmar-George noted.
Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunization, Nurse Julietta Cassius-Frederick noted that this survey is conducted against the backdrop of St. Lucia and rest of the Americas being certified by PAHO/WHO as Measles and Rubella Free.
“Hence the reason why we as the Caribbean are being urged to conduct activities to maintain that elimination process. So the MMR Survey is one such strategy that we are undertaking to ensure that Measles and Rubella is free from our shores. However for our second dose of our MMR Vaccine which we normally give at 4-5 years, it’s a concern to the Ministry and hence we need to be able to improve that therefore this survey what it will do, it will help us improve on our immunization programme. It will also help us identify if there are any inconsistencies and things we would have to improve on in terms of data quality, the health records of our children both on their health cards and the records at our facilities.” Cassius-Frederick indicated.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, 2 students per grade in every school have been selected to form part of the survey with the parents of these selected students being the ones who will be interviewed about immunization and immunization services.
Sophia Edwards-Gabriel, Health and Family Life Education Specialist in the Ministry of Education spoke to the collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
“One component of quality education is having quality learners and off-course to have quality learners we need persons who are of good health and so therefore it’s also the business of the education sector to ensure that our children are healthy. We are particularly concerned with their physical health as well as their psycho-social health and so the Ministry of Education supports health promotion through the health and family life education curriculum which is taught throughout schools at all levels from K-12.”
The survey will be conducted by trained interviewers and supervisors identified by ID Cards from Ministry of Health. The Ministry solicits the cooperation of members of the public particularly parents who have been identified for the survey to respond as honestly as possible to the question posed. The result of which will allow for improved data collection and policy decisions that will improve the immunization programme and the general health of children.