As part of an annual regional initiative, leading international pharmaceutical company MSD announced through its office in Jordan its support for EMRO Immunization Week 2014. This life-saving project is launched yearly by the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners.
EMRO Immunization Week 2014 is running from 24th – 30th April to raise awareness of the need for vaccination at all stages of life, and to improve the quality and longevity of the lives of Jordanian citizens. In partnership with the Ministry of Health (MOH), MSD is highlighting the vital importance of vaccinations and the need for greater awareness of its benefits. EMRO Vaccination Week celebrates and promotes immunization for people of all ages through advocacy, education and communication activities.
Vaccines have had a profound impact on public health worldwide over more than 150 years. They have helped to prevent more than 30 common infectious diseases and have assisted people with long-term disabilities1 while preventing between 2 and 3 million deaths a year2. In the US, Merck (known as MSD worldwide) makes vaccines for 11 of 17 diseases on the Center for Disease Control’s recommended immunization schedules.
However, although there have been great successes with vaccination in Jordan over many years, challenges remain. Accordingly the EMRO slogan for 2014 – ‘Immunize for a Healthy Future: Know, Check, Protect’ — is being strongly promoted by the MOH and leading speakers invited by MSD.
Speakers include Dr Nabil Sabri Qasem, Deputy EPI Director from the Communicable Disease Directorate, MOH; Dr Kareman Jumaa Al Zain, of the Directorate of Primary Healthcare, MOH and Dr Wail Hayajneh, Associate Professor of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at the Faculty of Medicine, Jordan University of Science & Technology.
In his opening remarks, Mr Taher El Ghobashi, Managing Director for MSD in Jordan, commented: “MSD in Jordan is proud to support EMRO Vaccination Week, which provides an important opportunity to raise awareness about the impact of vaccination on people of all ages. We are grateful to the Jordanian Ministry of Health, and our distinguished guest speakers for their support today: we applaud the commitment they share with us to improve public health in the region.”
Dr Nabil Sabri Qasem gave a thorough overview of the immunisation challenges and systems in place nationwide to protect the young from the earliest ages. He examined pre-school and school systems; vaccination for TT during pregnancy and action taken in recent years against tetanus, polio, measles, meningitis, pertussis and diphtheria.
Dr Kareman Al Zein spoke about Rotavirus Gastroenteritis and its threat to child health in Jordan. “There is at present little awareness of the danger, with few diagnostics,” she said. “But a vaccine can prevent children suffering from Rotavirus gastroenteritis..” She explained how a rotavirus surveillance system was now in work with ‘sentinel hospitals’ being selected from different areas for maximum coverage of the under-fives. She re-emphasized this year’s slogan ‘Know, Check, Protect’ as a useful reminder for parents.
Dr Wail Hayajneh gave a thorough overview of infant Rotavirus GastroEnteritis (RGE). He first explained the causes of RGE, then commented: “This is a very hardy virus, and it is most severe in children of between 6 and 24 months in age – especially when it leads to severe dehydration, which is life threatening.” He added that WHO figures showed an average of 114 million episodes a year worldwide, with over 600,000 deaths, stressing one key challenge for doctors: “We must remember that strains can vary year to year and from region to region.” He closed by emphasizing that, fortunately, there are vaccines available today to help prevent RGE among all age groups.
MrTaher El Ghobashi also noted that MSD’s overall research and development expenses were $7.5 billion in 2013; this figure encompasses all avenues of pharmaceutical innovation undertaken by MSD.
He emphasized in his conclusion: “MSD is fully committed to playing an active role in the prevention of disease worldwide. More than ever before, we recognize that the value of vaccination has moved beyond the reduction of infant mortality, and is becoming an integral component of the provision of healthcare services, from infancy to older age, across the globe. We intend pressing forward with innovative solutions to make vaccines more widely available, limiting potentially preventable deaths and improving quality of life.”
Vaccines have had a profound impact on public health and have helped to prevent more than 30 common infectious diseases, in addition to averting long-term disability each year millions of lives area saved thanks to growing awareness of the need to vaccinate. Research has shown that by simply raising awareness the prevalence of serious diseases can be significantly reduced.
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