Pacific Family Health Journal: Article 14 – Routine Immunization

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Pacific Family Health Journal with Dr Rodney Itaki

Routine Immunization is still the best strategy to prevent outbreaks.

I recently attended a workshop conducted by World Health Organization (WHO) that focused on strengthening health systems in smaller Pacific Island Countries (PICs). The workshop used the case of the recent measles outbreak in Samoa as a model to identify gaps in health systems and work towards strengthening systems to prevent outbreaks like the recent one in Samoa.

The workshop examined existing routine systems like immunization, surveillance, leadership, finance and logistics. And the key message for PICs was that doing the routine things well prevents the bigger disease outbreaks. It was also clear from research evidence that routine immunization above 80% (targeting at least 90% or more) is still the best strategy to prevent outbreaks caused by vaccine-preventable diseases.

Part of my job in FSM is assisting the public health team in disease surveillance. A robust surveillance system can pick up early warnings of an outbreak quickly and give ample time for response. However, another key element of outbreak preparedness is having an outbreak preparedness plan. 

WHO recommends member countries to have immunization rates of more than 90%. Most PICs countries struggle to get to 90% and each country has its own unique challenges.

WHO and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that high risk adults should also have their immunization status updated. The vaccine requirements may vary, so those who want to know if they need an update on any vaccines should see a physician.

Dr Rodney Itaki, MBBS, BMedSci

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