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Haiti - Diphtheria : Start of the vaccination campaign Phase II
08/04/2018 08:36:00

Haiti - Diphtheria : Start of the vaccination campaign Phase II
Phase I of the diphtheria immunization campaign, launched in mid-March by the Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has resulted in the vaccination of approximately one million children aged 1 to 14 years according to a preliminary report by PAHO. This first phase focused on 27 communes in 8 departments: Artibonite, Center, Nippes, North, North-East, North-West, South and South-East.

This Sunday, April 8, OPS announces the beginning of Phase 2 of the vaccination campaign against diphtheria in the Department of the West, which should reach more than 1.2 million children.

"The ministry has decided to conduct a campaign in 40 communes where diphtheria has been confirmed or is suspected," said Laurent Adriane, MSPP Director General, adding "making vaccines available is the goal of the Ministry of Health and its main partners, such as PAHO and UNICEF."

Since the beginning of this year, PAHO said Haiti has reported 14 confirmed cases of diphtheria and 48 probable cases. Children under 15 are the most affected, and nearly half of the confirmed and probable cases were not vaccinated, PAHO said.

During this period, it said there have been six deaths among the probable cases and one among the confirmed cases.

"This vaccination campaign seeks to reach all those children who have not received the essential vaccines to be protected against diphtheria," said PAHO Representative in Haiti Luis Codina, adding "This is also the largest preventive vaccination campaign in the country since 2016, when similar efforts were made towards the elimination of measles and rubella."

PAHO said it is collaborating with Haiti in the response to the diphtheria outbreak with technical and financial support of the operational costs of the vaccination campaign.

Vaccines against diphtheria and immunisation supplies are being acquired through the PAHO Revolving Fund, a pooled procurement mechanism that allows countries in the region to purchase vaccines at affordable prices, PAHO said.

It said support is also being provided for purchases of diphtheria antitoxin to treat cases, and antibiotics for cases and contacts.

To carry out this campaign, PAHO said more than 6 300 vaccinators have been mobilised, organised in 3,181 vaccination teams. They were trained by departmental and national supervisors, with the support of PAHO experts.

"Local supervision and independent monitoring of vaccination coverage will take place during and after the campaign to ensure the technical quality of the campaign," PAHO said, noting that diphtheria is preventable by vaccination.

Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae. Symptoms often appear gradually, starting with sore throat and fever. In severe cases, the bacteria generate a toxin that results in a thick grey or white plaque in the throat, blocking airways and hindering breathing or swallowing, and may cause a dry cough, PAHO said.

It said the disease is easily transmitted from one person to another, through direct contact or by air through respiratory droplets spread through coughing or sneezing.

In addition, Héctor Quezada, the Deputy Minister of Public Health of the Dominican Republic confirmed that the four-year-old Haitian child, who had been admitted at the end of March to Vinicio Calventi hospital in Santo Domingo, for the symptoms Diphtheria died an hour after his arrival, victim of this disease according to confirmed laboratory results. The other suspected cases that were studied were negative, according to Quezada.

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