Ministry of Health & Social Development
Public Health
Release Date:
Friday, 21 April 2017 - 3:53pm

April 22-29

My fellow residents and visitors of the Virgin Islands, I am your Minister for Health and Social Development, Ronnie W. Skelton.

Saturday, April 22, marks the beginning of Vaccination Week 2017. Vaccines are one of the great public health achievements of the modern era. Thanks to vaccines, a fatal disease like polio, that was once common, is now only a distant memory for most of the world. Timely vaccinations are the safest and most effective way to protect your family and the community from a long list of potentially life-threatening illnesses. Vaccines protect you by preparing your immune system to recognise and fight diseases that can be sometimes deadly - Diseases such as Hepatitis A and B, Influenza, Measles, Mumps, Tetanus, Polio and Chicken Pox.

The Ministry of Health and Social Development, and the BVI Health Services Authority join all the other countries and territories in the global observance of Vaccination Week. This year we celebrate two important public health milestones related to immunization: It is the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), which has led to some of the most significant achievements in disease elimination and prevention in the Western Hemisphere; and it is also the 15th anniversary of Vaccination Week in the Americas.

In 1967, 60% of the world’s population was affected by Small Pox, which took the lives of one in every four persons. A global campaign by governments, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies was launched by The World Health Organization, and in 1977, Small Pox was eradicated! This global alliance proved that working together as a global community we can eradicate these diseases.

The successful eradication of small pox became the impetus for the formation of the Pan American Health Organization's Expanded Program of Immunization in 1977.  Its primary purpose was to ensure that all persons at risk were provided with the appropriate vaccines to prevent diseases. 

This Expanded Program on Immunization continues to strive to improve Public Health. Currently it is working towards eradicating polio - a debilitating infectious disease that paralyzes the individual and impairs effective breathing. Since the 1800’s polio has killed thousands and left thousands paralyzed. In 1998, there were 350,000 reported cases globally. To date there are a reported only 359 cases in 3 countries. The almost total eradication of polio again proves what can be achieved when we work together. 

Over the years, the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) in the BVI has covered over 90 percent of the recommended childhood vaccines. As a Territory we continue to strive to achieve 100 percent coverage. 

At the 32nd Caribbean Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Managers’ Meeting held in 2016, the British Virgin Islands was awarded the Henry C. Smith cup and certificate, for the country that made the most improvement in the EPI during that year. This achievement is a credit to the hardworking Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Manager and team of dedicated community nurses and doctors, both in the public and private sectors. 

This week we are proud to announce that the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) pioneers in the BVI will be acknowledged for their contribution to the program's achievement. Among the honorees is Mrs. Louceta Hodge, the BVI Public Health Nurse who started the Expanded Program on Immunization in the Territory.

The PAHO Expanded Program on Immunization will continue to be successful if all the collaborators individually and collectively continue to play their role. It is estimated that vaccines avert more than two million deaths annually. We are therefore encouraging all community members to take full advantage of the services offered during Vaccination Week to ensure that your family is fully immunized. Many of these diseases are preventable, therefore let us work together to ensure that future generations are healthier, as we continue our mission toward a healthier Virgin Islands.

On behalf of The Ministry of Health and Social Development and the BVI Health Services Authority I am pleased to join the global community in observance of Vaccination Week 2017, under the theme “#GetVax (hashtag GetVax) celebrate a healthy tomorrow!"

Thank you for listening.