Panama at the forefront of vaccination programs in Latin America

Q24N (Revista Summa) Recently, the Ministry of Health of Panama (Minsa) announced the inclusion of the first booster dose of the hexavalent acellular vaccine at 18 months and the second booster dose of the tetravalent acellular vaccine at 4 years in its national calendar vaccination.

In this sense, Itzel de Hewitt, national coordinator of the EPI of Minsa, welcomes this milestone and indicates that “with this implementation, Panama is at the forefront of vaccination programs in Latin America”.

This is not the first time that Panama has been at the forefront of vaccination issues in the region.

It is not the first time that Panama has been at the forefront of vaccination issues in the region, since in 2014 it became the first country in the region to introduce the hexavalent vaccine in its national vaccination schedule. vaccination. Hexavalent is a combined pediatric vaccine that protects in a single dose against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and invasive disease caused by haemophilus influenzae type b2.

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The specialist says cases like Panama’s should be replicated by other countries in the region due to their broad benefits. “Having more effective vaccination programs and investing in more modern vaccines not only provides better protection for the population, but also generates significant savings for the State, as it reduces the burden on health systems, already overstretched by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Panama operates a regimen that protects against 30 vaccine-preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, pneumococcus, influenza, chicken pox, measles and mumps and consists of 25 vaccines in total. “While we have one of the most comprehensive immunization programs in the region, it can be further strengthened by incorporating vaccines with new technologies and developing immunization strategies that help close the gaps that exist. currently and have increased as a result of COVID-19,” adds Hewitt.

In this sense, the National Coordinator of the EPI of Panama explains that the administration of several vaccines at the same time (combined) does not have negative effects on the immune system, on the contrary, it reduces side effects, saves time, money and the benefit of fewer strokes.

In the case of Costa Rica, the vaccination program is a universal and global strategy that has allowed the country to advance in terms of social development and access to health within the framework of a more equitable, just and united society. .

Vaccine gaps in Latin America

In 2020, 2.7 million children in the region did not receive the essential childhood vaccines needed to stay healthy. In this sense, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that the interruptions of regular vaccination campaigns over the past two years have set back almost three decades of progress in vaccination against poliomyelitis and measles, which represents a real risk for its reintroduction3.

To counter this setback, PAHO has set targets for 2030 to reduce mortality and morbidity rates from vaccine-preventable diseases. One of them is to achieve 95% vaccination coverage among children under 5, through national vaccination programs; In addition, they propose to ensure access to essential medicines and vaccines, as well as to other priority health technologies, according to the available scientific evidence and according to the context of each country4.

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In this regard, Itzel de Hewitt reiterates the importance of implementing mass vaccination campaigns that enable countries to maintain control, elimination and eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases. “The success of vaccination programs is undeniable, vaccines save between 4 and 5 million lives each year[7], but only if people have access to it. To do this, equitable access and use of new and existing vaccines must be increased, to ensure they reach more and more people, leaving no one behind.

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