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PAHO, Canada launch initiative to expand vaccination program in Haiti

Washington, Oct 18 (Prensa Latina) The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Government of Canada announced today the launch of a joint initiative to support Haiti to expand vaccination against potentially lethal vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, measles, diphtheria and tetanus.

The partnership, which is part of Canada’s Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE), will inject over 6 million Canadian dollars (around US$4,4 million) into the Haitian health system to bolster vaccination outreach and operations throughout the country. The contribution was announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the first Canada-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit, scheduled for 17-19 October 2023 in Ottawa.

“Our national immunization programs have suffered serious setbacks over the last decade,” PAHO Director Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said recently. “We have witnessed decreases in vaccination coverage rates, inadequate sustainable financing for immunizations, and increasing vaccine hesitancy linked in part to misinformation.”

With the Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbating this decline, the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks is now “at a 30-year high,” he added.

The risk of disease outbreaks in Haiti is compounded by a precarious security situation which has recently pushed thousands into improvised shelters and is impeding the proper functioning of health facilities, with several hospitals and clinics struggling to provide essential health services.

Through CanGIVE, PAHO and Canada will work together to help Haiti vaccinate its population against Covid-19 as well as against the diseases included in the regional immunization program, such as polio, rubella, congenital rubella syndrome, measles, diphtheria, and neonatal tetanus.

CanGIVE will focus on reaching marginalized communities in Haiti, including people living in deep urban and rural poverty. The program will bolster gender-sensitive vaccination operations that meet the needs of women and girls, who are often likewise marginalized.

In addition, the CanGIVE collaboration will support communications efforts to build vaccine confidence among the general population and increase vaccine uptake in the country.

CanGIVE is also being carried out in Jamaica and Colombia with similar objectives: address vaccine hesitancy, increase equitable access to vaccination, and protect the lives and health of the most vulnerable population groups.

“With the contribution from CanGIVE, we can help Haiti begin to reverse the decline in routine vaccination,” Dr. Oscar Barreneche, PAHO Representative in Haiti, said.

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