National Switch Day carried out as part of Vaccination Week

Eulynis Browne Coordinator of Community Nursing Services (center) flanked by athletes promoting “Go for the Gold, Get Vaccinated”

(SKNIS): April 26, was dubbed by the Community Health Services in the Ministry of Health as “National Switch Day,” one of the activities in commemoration of Vaccination Week which runs from April 25 to 29, 2016.

At the opening ceremony of the week, Coordinator of Community Nursing Services and Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Manager Eulynis Browne explained that the day had to do with changing from one type of polio vaccine to another.

“This year 2016 is a very significant year across the world, as it relates to vaccination,” Ms. Browne said. “It’s a switch from trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine [tOPV] to bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine [bOPV.] As we look at our programme, we can boast of our achievement in terms of our coverage, an average of 97 percent over the years, since we’ve started our vaccination programme. I think that calls for an applause in terms of our achievement.”

Ms. Browne went on to explain that the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed what is commonly referred to as (PEEPS) which stands for Polio Eradication Endgame Strategic Plan from 2013 – 2018, initiated by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative website, PEEPS is a comprehensive long-term strategy that addresses what is needed to deliver a polio free world by 2018. The plan was developed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in consultation with national health authorities, global health initiatives, scientific experts, donors and other stakeholders, in response to a directive of the World Health Assembly.

The EPI Manager elaborated that internationally, August 2016 had been scheduled for the switch, regionally in the Americas, the switch had been scheduled for this week while nationally it is today (April 26.)

“We are switching now to IPV, the Inactivated Polio Vaccine to protect against polio types 1,2 and 3,” Ms. Browne said, explaining that bOPV had a lower risk of the rare circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). This is but one step in PEEPS which intends to have only IPV in use at the end of the initiative in 2018.

Ms. Browne emphasized that switch day was synchronized globally because “anyplace that continues to use tOPV after April 26 is a risk of generating and exporting Type 2 circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus and potentially getting its neighbours at risk.”

“So it’s very important that we remove all trivalent OPV.” She emphasized that no risk is involved if the child’s immunization schedule began with tOPV but now continues with the new bOPV. The global switch was described as “the most synchronized in the history of vaccination.”

Pertaining to the undertaking of Vaccination Week itself, Ms. Browne revealed that it has always been very targeted.

“In St. Kitts and Nevis our Vaccination Week over the years has involved a number of activities including mop-up campaigns targeting special groups such as farmers, healthcare workers, daycare centre workers, fishermen and workplaces,” Ms. Browne said. “We have also used that opportunity to do training amongst the healthcare workers.”

While Vaccination Week was commemorating its 14th year, under the theme “Go for the Gold, Get Vaccinated,” it was outlined that there was documentation of vaccination taking place in St. Kitts in 1918 in response to an outbreak of diphtheria, whooping cough and rubella. In 1952 it was also recorded that in response to a high prevalence of Tuberculosis there was the introduction of the BCG [Bacillus Calmette-Guérin] vaccine to protect against contraction of the illness. Several other milestone of the local immunization history were highlighted concluding with last year, 2015, when it was noted that the birth dose of Hepatitis B was re-introduced and this year the switch to IPV along with bOPV.

Ms. Browne also launched the third edition of the “EPI Manual St. Christopher and Nevis,” which she explained is now under technical review and should be ready for dissemination by June of this year. She revealed that the first edition was published in 1978 and the second edition in 2009. Important additions to the third edition was said to be a map of the Federation, an executive overview, how to go about surveillance of selected communicable diseases, steps to contact investigation, guidelines for the curing of vaccines and the like.

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