Major vaccination campaign to start in Haiti

A major immunization campaign will begin on Saturday in Haiti to give life-saving vaccinations to an estimated 60,000 Haitian children, the United Nations Children's Fund has announced.

Following the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, routine immunization of children was severely disrupted, with health facilities damaged or destroyed and fuel and electricity interruptions impacting health services, including refrigeration systems used to store and distribute vaccines.

Before the quake, UNICEF said, vaccination rates in Haiti were already as low as 53 percent.

As part of the new vaccination campaign, which is led by the Haitian health ministry with the support of UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization, children will be given vaccinations to fight polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles and rubella.

The vaccinations come as part of the annual Vaccination Week of the Americas. The initiative covers 44 countries in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

“Vaccination is the most cost-effective life-saver for children – but the human cost of not vaccinating a child is immeasurable,” Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans, the UNICEF Representative in Haiti, told “The concurrent vaccination efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic also emphasize the collaborative spirit embodied by the Vaccination Week of the Americas,” she added.

The campaign serves as a supplement to an ongoing program started in February that has vaccinated more than 220,000 children under the age of eight in 687 locations.