Vaccination Week in Saudi begins

RIYADH: The Ministry of Health has launched a campaign to create awareness among parents and children concerning the importance of vaccination to prevent some infectious diseases.

“The campaign is being held through the print and electronic media in line with the requirements of the World Health Organization,” Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Al-Mirghalani told Arab News. He said the theme of the week is “Vaccination is Our Nation’s Investment.”

The campaign will be formally launched by Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and Education Minister Prince Faisal bin Abdullah on Sunday from the headquarters of the ministry.

“There are many things parents want to give their children, but good health is perhaps the greatest of all. Vaccination is one of the most important ways parents can protect their children’s health,” a spokesman explained.

“Vaccines are one of history’s most successful and cost-effective public-health tools for preventing serious disease and death. Diseases that were once commonplace, such as polio, measles, mumps, whooping cough, diphtheria and rubella, are now only distant memories for most of us in Saudi Arabia.”

The Kingdom was one of the first countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region to implement vaccination programs, which reduced the incidence of infectious diseases.

In 1982, a royal decree was issued mandating that birth certificates would be issued only upon completion of vaccinations to infants.

Ziad Al-Memish, deputy minister of health for preventive medicine, said the Kingdom was free from polio because of the organized vaccination campaign carried out in the 1990s. He noted that parental negligence could lead to possible complications in children’s health.

Dr. Hussein Gezairy, regional director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Egypt, said immunization was one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions with a proven record of success in protecting people against certain diseases. He did point out, however, that immunization was currently facing unprecedented challenges that put these successes at risk.

“We have to go beyond business as usual. This means combining innovative approaches and solutions in order to remove barriers, such as misinformation, misperceptions and stagnating political and financial commitment. It also means working harder to promote the utilization of immunization services, strengthening partnerships and ensuring the appropriate allocation of resources.”

He concluded: “We are joining the WHO regions of the Americas and Europe and nearly 80 participating countries in an effort to establish a Global Vaccination Week, possibly in 2011. It is my belief that our continued collaboration will make this a success.”