Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Health, People & Places » Healthy Living: Vaccination During COVID-19
Apr 30, 2020

Healthy Living: Vaccination During COVID-19

For the past few months, the only vaccine all of us have been talking or thinking about is one that could rid us of the current COVID-19 Pandemic. While that vaccine remains elusive, this week, Belize commemorated “Vaccination Week in the Americas.” Typically it’s a time to acknowledge the life-saving powers of vaccines. This year, the call for health systems around the world was to do their best in maintaining vaccination coverage – even during a pandemic. In tonight’s Healthy Living, we find out how Belize is keeping up with vaccination coverage.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

For the past decade, Belize has been able to boast that it provides vaccination coverage for up to ninety-five percent of newborns and infants. The vaccination schedule in Belize protects us from thirteen diseases. This extensive vaccination coverage means that we have not seen diseases like polio or rubella in decades.


Natalia Largaespada Beer

Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Maternal & Child Health Technical Advisor, MOH

“The last case of polio diagnosed in Belize 1981, measles was 1991, neonatal tetanus 1997, congenital rubella syndrome 1997, and rubella was 2001. We do have some clusters of vaccine-preventable diseases like whooping cough. Still, the data is showing us that it’s mainly among children, not vaccinated.”


The government covers the cost of vaccinations and so parents can get their children immunized at public health facilities for free. But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, restriction of movements has caused a delay in vaccinations.


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer

“Before, if you would walk into Matron Roberts Polyclinic, you would find twenty, thirty women sitting close to each other, awaiting their turn for vaccination of their kids. We can’t afford that now.   Traditionally, the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the communities with parents, we get a lot done through mobile clinics, and we do home visits and some of these strategies we had to discontinue. I would say right now we have a delay of about two months.”


And this situation is not unique to Belize. That’s why health experts like the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Doctor Carissa Etienne make a call for countries to do their best to maintain vaccination coverage.


Carissa Etienne

Dr. Carissa Etienne, Director, PAHO

“If we fall behind on routine immunization particularly for children, we risk outbreaks, thus overwhelming hospitals and clinics with preventable diseases in addition to COVID-19.  History has shown us that after wars or epidemics, if we allow large gaps in immunization coverage, vaccine-preventable diseases like polio and measles can re-emerge.”


So what is the plan for catching up in Belize?


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer

“So we have to prioritize. From the target population, which is about thirty-five thousand children under five, we are prioritizing newborns, ensuring that they receive the BCG vaccine and hepatitis ‘B’ birth dose before hospital discharge. The next group is children nine months old we only have three months to help them to catch up with the vaccines that they will be needing. The other group that we are targeting is the group of twelve months and eighteen months, old babies. Those we need to reach to all of them to provide them with the measles coating vaccine, which is the MMR. The MMR at twelve months of age and then MMR Two at eighteen months of age. This group is a priority at this point because we do have outbreaks of measles. We have in Mexico still having cases of measles, and well, we know in the European countries and other countries in the region of the Americas also are having cases of measles. So the threat of measles is still there.”


So, the Ministry of Health is asking parents to contact their clinic and schedule an appointment to get their little ones their life-saving vaccines.


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer

“So the same space where we use to have thirty to forty women waiting for services, we may need to scale it down to five in the morning and five in the afternoon. So the number of vaccines we use to give in a day we would have to spread it out into a week. It sounds challenging. I’m pretty sure we can get it done. Because we have a good response from the community.”


While it is a departure from the culture clinic visits, it’s just one more shift we can add to the ‘new normal’ brought about by COVID-19.


Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer

“We are dealing with a disease that eighty-one percent are asymptomatic, and the only way to contain the spread of the transmission is to know all who are positive and get them to do a quarantine or isolation. And until we reach that level of knowing all who are positive, which we don’t have the resources for, it is a challenge to believe that people just walk in as nothing happened. But if we have to reduce transmission.”

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed