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Countries in the Americas Observe Vaccination Week

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Health Report.

This is Vaccination Week in the Americas. The Pan American Health Organization and officials from the United States, Mexico and Canada launched the campaign Monday. Public health officials say they hope to reach forty-four million children and adults throughout North, Central and South America.

The children will be vaccinated against measles, polio, rubella and other diseases that can be prevented. Some countries will make special efforts to vaccinate native populations and people in border areas with limited health care.

Many countries are vaccinating women who may become pregnant. And some countries also hope to vaccinate older people. Each country sets its own goals.

Vaccination Week is the largest such campaign in the Americas. It began in the Andean area of South America two years ago. Later, health ministers of all the other countries in the Americas agreed to join the effort.

Last year, Pan American health officials say, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean vaccinated almost forty-four million people, mostly children. The United States and Canada helped by informing people about the importance of vaccinations.

Officials say vaccines have greatly reduced child deaths and disability caused by preventable diseases in the Americas. This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Salk vaccine against polio. Today the Americas have been declared polio-free. Smallpox has been ended worldwide. And there has been progress against measles. Health officials in the Americas are also working to end another disease, rubella, through vaccination.

As part of Vaccination Week, the United States is observing National Infants Immunization Week. Health officials are urging parents to get their babies vaccinated.

Eleven thousand babies are born each day in the United States. Public health officials say children should be vaccinated against twelve diseases before age two. But they say more than twenty percent of two-year-olds in the United States are not fully protected against these preventable diseases.

All thirty-five countries in North, Central and South America are members of the Pan American Health Organization. It is based in Washington. It was established in nineteen oh two and represents the Americas in the World Health Organization.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Gwen Outen.