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Jul 22, 2004

Health workers honoured for immunization campaign

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Most media coverage on the subject of health tends to focus on the dramatic: an unexplained death, a sudden epidemic, a scandal at the hospital. But what of the many successes in the world of health? While they may lack headline power, they are no less real–or newsworthy. Today officials gave recognition to one of those quiet victories in the field of immunization.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Today, ninety-eight point three percent of the population in the Belize District has been vaccinated against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. In April, the Central Region of the Ministry of Heath embarked on a one week intensive campaign that resulted in seventy-seven thousand persons between the ages of five and thirty five receiving the MMR vaccine. The immunization drive is being called a success not just because it almost reached the goal of one hundred percent, but for the first time there was an effort to vaccinate as many males as possible. Central Health Region Manager, Dr. Jose Lopez explains why.

Jacqueline Woods

“Dr. Lopez the MMR immunization shots were not introduced in Belize until 1996. Why is it at that time we only focused on females?”

Dr. Jose Lopez, Manager, Central Health Region

“Well, at that time we did not have the experience. The advice was at that time, that try to get as many people as you can, but the focus at that time was on females. Nowadays we know that males also get it and there is a little problem in that these males can also infect the females. So to get a complete coverage that is why we focused mainly on the males between the ages of five and under thirty-five.”

In just six days, it took public health nurses and other health teams to vaccinate a total of sixty three thousand one hundred and thirty eight males, ten thousand five hundred females and three thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven children in the Belize District.

This morning that effort was recognized during a special ceremony when all parties involved received certificates for the hard work.

Dr. Jose Lopez

“I think the success depends a lot on the team work and that you have to have the team properly motivated so they want to do it and they enjoy what they are doing. We had the drivers, everybody; all the different departments go out. Also the advertisements over the radio and TV and that is a big part of the campaign and I think if we can always do that, we will always be successful.”

Minister of Health Vildo Marin says it is imperative that the country maintains the high immunization rate and noted the many achievements that have been made over the years thanks to health care workers across the country.

Vildo Marin, Minister of Health

“There was a special section in the hospital which was C3 and all they did was attend to the diarrhoea cases. Today that is not the case. Or the case of cholera, you know we hear on the media that there are cholera cases n South America and Central America, but the last case of cholera that we had in Belize was in 1997.”

“How about malaria? We use to have and doc you can correct me if I am wrong, about ten thousand cases of malaria in the country, today that number has been brought down to a thousand. The last case of Polio Mylitis was in the year 1981, that is a big achievement. There has been no case of measles diagnosed since 1991 again that is a big achievement. The last case of neonatal tetanus was in the year 1997. The last case of rubella in 2001, the last case of congenital rubella syndrome was in 1997.”

“And for the year 2003 at the country level all vaccines had above ninety-five percent which is the minimum acceptable internationally. Now we know that not all the districts have reached the ninety-five percent coverage, but we are working on it and we want to inspire all of you countrywide that we follow the good example of the Belize District which reached

ninety-eight point three percent and kudos for you. This shows that with hard work and dedication we can reach or surpass that ninety-five percent coverage in vaccines.”

The vaccination campaign was held from April twenty-fourth to the thirtieth. Jacqueline Woods for News Five

The vaccination drive received financial and technical support from the Pan American Health Organization, UNICEF, the Social Security Board and the Government of Belize.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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