From May 2 to 9, 2023, Guatemala is organizing the 21st Immunization Week in the Americas (VWA) in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). This activity adds to the efforts of Latin American countries to promote the vaccination of entire populations, thereby reducing the risk of outbreaks and spread of diseases that can have serious consequences on the health of the population.
The 21st VWA was inaugurated at the Zona 3 Health Center under the leadership of the Minister of Health, Dr. Francisco Coma, with the representative of PAHO/WHO, Dr. Gerardo Alfaro and the representative of UNICEF in Guatemala, Mr. Carlos Carrera. The involvement of families in the vicinity of Zone 3 was added, along with the health authorities of the DAS Guatemala Central, whose participation is vital to the success of the activities planned within the framework of the VWA.
Since its first edition in 2003, VWA has helped countries reach nearly 1.1 billion people in more than 40 countries and support the control of many vaccine-preventable diseases and the elimination of 6 of them: polio, Measles, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, Neonatal Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Chickenpox. These efforts have contributed to the fact that the Region of the Americas has traditionally had a high level of vaccination coverage.
However, it has decreased significantly in the last decade. Today, the region of the Americas ranks second in the world with the worst vaccination coverage, followed by the African region. Derived from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of immunization services, by 2021, it is estimated that 2.7 million children had not received all their doses of vaccines. The low administration of vaccines at the regional level substantially increases the risk of the spread of diseases such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, which are present at higher levels today than in the past 30 years.
MSPAS will deploy various efforts through vaccinating personnel from 29 health regions of the country to cover the entire population with the routine schedule. PAHO’s support of these efforts will continue during VWA through innovative strategies that bring the population closer to immunization service. As Dr. Alfaro noted, “Health on Wheels” is a good example of an increasingly comprehensive and complementary approach seeking universal primary care.
VWA represents an opportunity for entire populations, especially families, to reach out to health services and demand all the doses of vaccines they are entitled to.