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CARPHA urges Member States to continue vaccine coverage while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic

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#Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 29 April 2020.  Although there is no vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), vaccinations against seasonal influenza and measles are available to prevent respiratory illness and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. If vaccination programmes are not continued, more people are likely to get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases, thus increasing the burden on the already strained health systems.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.  The virus is transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity (usually less than two metres). 

Given the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Caribbean region, it is important that people take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.   Because the virus is new and different it requires its own vaccine.   Research is currently underway to develop a vaccine.

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Dr Joy St John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) states, “Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for over 60 years, and vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent influenza, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.  Once a COVID-19 vaccination becomes available  in the Caribbean, CARPHA is assured that the same care and due diligence would have been in place in developing the vaccine, as has been in place for the development of vaccines against respiratory illnesses.”  

The Caribbean has long been a leader among regions of the world, as our countries have applied high standards in the delivery of vaccination programmes.  While successfully maintaining a measles-free status since 1991, the Caribbean has also been eradicated of endemic smallpox in 1971, polio in 1994, and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome in 2015.  The health of the general public improved drastically with the vaccinations that allowed children to survive because they no longer developed severe measles infections.

If we fall behind in our immunisation programmes we run the risk of recurrence of measles and other previously eradicated diseases.  In light of this, CARPHA is urging governments to continue to maintain their vaccine coverage as a matter of priority, so Ministries of Health do not have to manage outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases like measles, while fighting the COVID-2019 pandemic. 

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends annual vaccination, which is especially important for health workers and people at higher risk of serious influenza complications, such as the very young, pregnant women, the elderly and chronically ill persons, and for people who live with or care for high risk individuals.

Dr. St. John explains that the primary form of transmission for COVID-19 and the flu are through the movement of droplets between persons and direct physical contact with the virus even on surfaces.  She added that large social events can create serious public health challenges because persons are often crowded together, making spread of COVID-19 from person to person very easy.

CARPHA encourages persons to continue to practice good personal hygiene in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), influenza and other respiratory viruses.  Good hygiene measures that persons can take include:

·       Covering your mouth with a tissue or sneezing or coughing into the crook of your elbow.

·       Safely disposing of used tissues.

·       Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after coughing and sneezing and before and after meal preparation, eating and using the toilets. Alternatively, you may use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.

·       Avoiding contact with others by staying home if you are sick.

·       Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly.

This year, between April 25 and May 2, 2020, CARPHA joins its partners and the rest of the world in celebrating the 18th annual Vaccination Week in the Americas with the slogan “Love. Trust. Protect. #GetVax.” This year’s campaign seeks to bring to mind the love people have for their children, themselves, and their communities; the trust in vaccines´ ability to save lives; and the protection they provide from diseases for everyone, everywhere.

“To maintain our community protection, we call on Ministries of Health to implement catch-up campaigns.  This will ensure that a person completes their vaccination schedule in the shortest, but effective time frame.  Continued vigilance is important, and general practitioners should remain alert and take the appropriate actions in suspected cases of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Dr. St. John. 

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Caribbean News

Barbados bestows Humanitarian Award on PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne 

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#Barbados, November 25, 2022 – The newest recipient of Barbados’ Humanitarian Award is outgoing Pan American Health Organization Director, Dr Carissa Etienne.  The government of Barbados grants this award to frontline workers who were instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon receiving the award, Dr. Etienne expressed her gratitude for the recognition, noting, however, that she was more grateful for the opportunity to have served on the island. She also praised Prime Minister, Mia Mottley for her diligence in leading the country and regional involvement during the pandemic.

Humanitarian medals were also given to Frontline workers who risked their own safety to ensure the needs of the public were met. Those who held supporting roles on the frontline received humanitarian lapel pins, and those who made generous donations were given humanitarian plaques.

Dr. Etienne highlighted one major lesson from the pandemic, “we are only safe when the weakest among us is also safe”.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Caribbean News

JAMAICA: Government Revenues Soar

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#Kingston, November 25, 2022 – There has been a jump in Government revenue collection, with tax revenues for the first six months of the fiscal year exceeding budget by $35 billion.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, said that the out-turn is as a result of higher-than-expected economic performance.

“The first quarter growth came out at 5.7 per cent… and all categories of revenue are over budget. Revenues from income and profits are up by nearly 13 per cent or $10 billion,” Dr. Clarke said.

In addition, he noted that revenues from production and consumption are up by seven per cent or $7 billion and revenues from international trade are up by 15 per cent or $18 billion. Revenues from motor-vehicle licences for the first six months of this year are 16 per cent higher than budgeted.

Dr. Clarke was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 22) where the First Supplementary Estimates for 2022/23 were approved.

The approval reflects a revised expenditure of $971 billion, from the previously approved budget of $912 billion for the financial year.

Minister Clarke said the First Supplementary Estimates come within the context of positive overperformance of the economy.

“As a result of this revenue overperformance… we are able to come to this Parliament six months after and put a Budget that proposes $60 billion in new expenditure,” Dr. Clarke said.

The largest component of the supplementary budget is the allocation for public-sector salaries and wages in keeping with the restructuring of compensation.

“We are allocating $16 billion there and there is another $2 billion to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and then about $3 billion for statutory deductions, making a total of $21 billion,” the Minister said.

 

Contact: Latonya Linton

Release: JIS

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