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 of the tetravalent acellular vaccine at 4 years in its national immunization schedule.
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.”
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 immunization schedule. The hexavalent is a combined pediatric vaccine that in a single dose protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and invasive diseases due to haemophilus influenzae type b2.
The specialist affirms that cases like the one in Panama should be replicated by other countries in the region due to their broad benefits. “Having more effective immunization programs and investing in more modern vaccines not only offers better protection for the population, but also generates relevant savings for the State, since it reduces the burden on health systems, already saturated by the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Panama applies a scheme that protects against 30 vaccine-preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, polio, pneumococcus, influenza, chickenpox, measles, and mumps and is made up of 25 vaccines in total. “Although we have one of the most complete vaccination programs in the region, it can still be strengthened with the incorporation of vaccines with new technologies and through the development of immunization strategies that contribute to reducing the gaps that currently exist and that they 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 less pokes.
In the case of Costa Rica, the vaccination scheme is a universal and comprehensive strategy that has allowed the country to advance in terms of social development and access to health within the framework of a more equitable, fair and supportive society.
Vaccination gaps in Latin America
In 2020, 2.7 million children in the region did not receive the essential childhood vaccines needed to keep them healthy. Along these lines, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that the interruptions in regular immunization campaigns in the last two years have set back almost three decades of progress in vaccination against polio and measles, which represents a real risk for its reintroduction3.
To counteract this setback, PAHO has set goals for 2030 to reduce mortality and morbidity rates from vaccine-preventable diseases. One of them is to achieve 95% vaccination coverage in children under 5 years of age, through national immunization 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.
In this regard, Itzel de Hewitt reiterates the importance of implementing mass immunization campaigns that allow countries to maintain control, elimination and eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases. “The success of immunization programs is undeniable, vaccines save between 4 and 5 million lives each year, but only if people have access to them. To do this, equitable access and use of new and existing vaccines must be increased, to ensure that they reach more and more people, leaving no one behind